Newberry boy's death ruled homicide

Published: Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 10:15 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 10:15 a.m.

Javarian Wallace didn't eat anything on the last day of his life, his mother told authorities.

The 5-year-old played outside his Newberry home for a little bit that day, Valerie Owens, 26, told deputies, but he spent much of the day lying around the house at 616 NW 257th Drive in Newberry.

Shortly before 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 27, Owens checked on Javarian and found him unresponsive, she told Alachua County sheriff's investigators. Emergency workers took him to North Florida Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Based on preliminary autopsy results released Thursday, authorities have ruled the death a homicide.

Sheriff's spokesman Art Forgey on Thursday said the cause of death has not been determined. He added that the Medical Examiner's finding that the death was suspicious led his agency to begin a criminal investigation.

The state Department of Children and Families also is investigating the case, spokesman John Harrell said.

"We are working closely with law enforcement," he said. Referring to Owens' other child, Harrell added, "We have placed the 2-year-old sibling with a relative."

Forgey said investigative reports state that Javarian lived in the home with his mother, his aunt Alice Owens and the younger sibling. Neighbors said the sibling is a sister.

Javarian had behavioral issues and was communicating at about the level of a 2-year-old, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Neighbors said they would see him playing from time to time. Bessie Augustus, who lives across the street, said she did not see any members of the family outside the day of Javarian's death.

She added that Owens occasionally would come to her house to use her phone but that she did not come by on the day Javarian died.

Valerie Owens met a Sun reporter at the door on Thursday but said she did not want to talk about her son.

Owens is pregnant, and neighbors said she told them she is expecting twins.

Harrell said it might be some time before investigators determine how Javarian died.

"Typically when you have a child death case, it would take several months to investigate and close the case because we would want an autopsy report and a report from the child protection team as well," he said.

The DCF child protection team includes doctors who specialize in cases of abuse and neglect, Harrell said. Team members would do physical and skeletal exams of child victims.

"When you have a case where there are serious injuries to a child or the death of a child, or allegations of molestations — those are the situations they get involved with," Harrell said.

There was no indication Javarian was involved in any activities outside his small, cinder-block home.

Alachua County Public Schools spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said no student named Javarian Wallace was registered with the district.

Tanesha Darling, a cousin of Valerie Owens who has lived next door to her for a short time, said Javarian was largely unknown to her as well.

"My daughter just played with him once," she said.

Darling said Javarian's death left her baffled.

"It was shocking," she said.

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