270 lb. Sarasota father played video game while smothering son, 6, say deputies

James Dearman was charged with aggravated child abuse. Sarasota Co. Jail booking photo
James Dearman was charged with aggravated child abuse. Sarasota Co. Jail booking photo

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Sarasota father is charged with aggravated manslaughter in connection with a very disturbing crime. Deputies say the 270 lb. Sarasota father played a video game and at the same time used his body weight to smother his 6-year-old son.

Sarasota County Sheriff’s Deputies say the dead boy’s 7-year-old sibling watched the horrific Christmas Eve incident unfold.

The sibling reported seeing the father, James “Rick” Dearman, 31, smother the boy on the couch, as Dearman played a video game with his live-in girlfriend.

Deputies responded to a home in Englewood at about 10:10 p.m. They arrived to find paramedics performing CPR on a 6-year-old boy in the living room. One of the deputies said he saw a bruise on the boy’s back.

The 6-year-old boy was transported to Englewood Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Detectives later interviewed Dearman’s girlfriend, Ashley Cole, who said that she and Dearman live together at the home. Cole told detectives that at 7:30 p.m., the couple told the two children to go to bed. The children sleep on the floor with blankets in a separate bedroom.

Cole said the children would not go to sleep and ran around the bedroom. She said that Dearman got up from the couch and forced both children to stand facing the wall. Cole said that the 6-year-old boy was caught watching her and Dearman play video games. Dearman then became angry and put the boy on the couch.

Cole said Dearman forced the boy to lie on his side on the couch with his face against the rear couch cushions. She said Dearman then pinned the boy against the couch using his bodyweight. The boy was screaming that he could not breath and was trying to free himself.

Detectives say Dearman ignored the boy’s pleas and he and Cole continued to play video games.

After 5 minutes, the boy became motionless. Dearman and Cole then went to the garage to smoke a cigarette and left the boy on the couch.

Ten minutes later, the pair returned from the garage and saw the boy lying on the couch. Cole saw that the boy’s lips were blue and he was not breathing. Cole ran into the garage to pray, according to an arrest affidavit.

Dearman called 911 and attempted to perform CPR until paramedics came.

Detectives later interviewed the dead child’s sibling, who witnessed the alleged abuse. When asked about the victim, the sibling responded, “When dad squished him, he got dead,” according to the affidavit.

The sibling demonstrated to detectives how the victim was pinned in the couch and said the victim was crying and needed to use the restroom, but was denied by Dearman.

Dearman was arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse. On Thursday afternoon, the charge was changed to Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child. Dearman is being held without bond in the Sarasota County Jail.

The medical examiner is conducting an autopsy to determine the cause of death of the child.

The case has left its mark on the sheriff’s office staff.

“There’s not a detective or anybody who isn’t pretty upset about this and finds it egregious and malicious, the treatment of a six-year-old child,” said Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Captain John Walsh.

 

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