The mother of a toddler who died at his family’s southern New Jersey home last summer has been found guilty of killing the child.
On June 25, 41-year-old Heather Reynolds appeared before a Camden County judge for a detention hearing. County prosecutors said in a statement that she has been charged with murder, as well as endangering the welfare of a child, possession of methamphetamine, and hindering apprehension in connection with the death of her 18-month old son, Axel Reynolds.
Officials said that police received a call on May 10, 2018, reporting that an unresponsive toddler was on a lawn near the caller’s residence in Sicklerville, Gloucester Township. Police officers and emergency crew arrived at the scene to find Reynolds holding the child in her arms, screaming for her neighbors to call for help, according to police reports, reported NJ.com.
The child, who had bruises around his mouth and nose, was pronounced dead a short time after.
The mother’s behavior “seemed suspicious,” Assistant Prosecutor Peter Gallagher told NJ.com. “Although no one had accused the defendant of any wrongdoing, she blurted out, ‘It’s not suspicious. I didn’t do anything wrong.'”
The police were able to salvage text messages between Reynolds and a man with whom she was having an extramarital affair from her damaged cellphone, said Gallagher. Alex’s father, 41-year-old Joseph, was working out of state at the time. He later passed away in November 2018—only six months after his son.
The text messages, according to Gallagher, revealed that the Reynolds was “becoming frustrated” by her boyfriend’s apparent “lack of interest.” Investigators also learned that the mother had expressed the sentiment that her relationship was being hindered by the boy.
An autopsy concluded on June 7 that the death was a homicide by asphyxia caused when “a wipe containing isopropyl alcohol and detergent was placed over the mouth and nose,” said a county prosecutor. The forensic analysis, along with other findings from the year-long investigation, was presented to a grand jury, leading to an indictment against the mother.
Reynolds has pleaded not guilty to all charges, claiming that she had nothing to do with her son’s death, reported Patch.com. Her attorney, Michael Testa Sr., argued during the hearing that his client had “suffered greatly as a result of this,” noting the death of her husband.
But Gallagher said the real victim was Axel. “This was an absolutely brutal murder and a helpless victim,” she spoke to the court.