Three-year-old Jaronn Ladale McAllister was unharmed when his mother left him in the care of her then-boyfriend, Montey Murray, at her Shallotte apartment on Feb. 29, 2012, Assistant District Attorney Quintin McGee said in his opening statements in the State’s case against Murray.
After more than a week of jury selection, opening statements began Tuesday afternoon in the trial of Murray, 29, charged with first-degree murder in connection with Jaronn’s death, as well as felony child abuse resulting in serious injury or death, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a government official and fleeing to elude arrest.
There were “no bruises on his head, no abrasions. No bruises on his chest. He didn’t have a lacerated liver when she went to work,” McGee said about the child before his mother left him in Murray’s care when she went to work the third shift as a dispatcher in Wilmington that night.
Jaronn was pronounced dead at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center in Bolivia on March 1, 2012. He died from injuries sustained while in Murray’s care, the State contends.
Murray did not call 911, but contacted a neighbor who reportedly took Murray and Jaronn to the hospital, McGee said. They arrived at the hospital at 9:11 a.m. and when questioned about what happened, Murray reportedly told the staff that “a dog got him.”
Jaronn’s mother later arrived at the hospital, McGee said. When they were told Jaronn had died, Murray left the hospital to go back to the apartment.
“Montey Murray bolts,” McGee said. “He doesn’t stay around with his grieving girlfriend who just heard the news that her own child is dead. He didn’t stay to console her…he goes right out that door and hops into a waiting car, drives off and leaves.”
An autopsy performed by Dr. Lisa McCarthy determined the child’s cause of death was multiple blunt-force traumas to his abdomen, which were consistent with injuries to his liver, she testified.
After he left the hospital, McGee said Murray called the mother of his two children and reportedly told her: “They’re going to get me for involuntary manslaughter. Jaronn is dead.”
“Only someone who had done something to Jaronn would have the contention to know that,” McGee said.
The State contends Murray was “running from the cops” with the intent to go to South Carolina after news of Jaronn’s death.
When Murray encountered law enforcement, he led them on a “high-speed chase” and ran a red light at an intersection on U.S. 17, McGee said. While on U.S. 17, McGee said that Murray rammed law enforcement vehicles and was eventually stopped when deputies used a Precision Immobilization Technique, or PIT maneuver, to run Murray’s vehicle off the road.
“There is no question that Jaronn McCalllister was murdered,” McGee said. “He murdered that child. He tried to flee from law enforcement officers and assaulted them while doing so. That’s what the evidence is going to show.”
But James Payne, a defense attorney representing Murray, contends Murray was trying to get back to the hospital–not trying to go to South Carolina–after he left the apartment.
“[Murray’s cousin] is going to tell you, ‘I was asleep on the couch, next thing I knew Montey Murray was waking me up.’ And he’s going to tell you, ‘he said we were going back to the hospital.’ That’s what he’s going to testify to you,” Payne said.
“Evidence will also show…if Montey left the Cardinal apartments, he was heading east. And he got to an intersection at Shallotte where he could have gone south, to South Carolina. But where did he turn? He turned north,” Payne said.
Payne also said that it was not until August 2013, when Murray was indicted on the first-degree murder charge, that law enforcement spoke with the mother of Murray’s children about the phone conversation she had with Murray after he left the hospital in 2012.
“She has told many different things about that phone call. She will also tell you that she believes that what she said has been taken out of context,” Payne said.
Jaronn’s mother will testify that Murray never “whipped him,” Payne said.
Murray had been dating Jaronn’s mother since the child was about 5 or 6 months old, Payne said. Murray and Jaronn had “developed quite the relationship,” and the child looked up to Montey “as his daddy.”
“Every soul in here would agree with me, it is wrong for parents to bury a child. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. And every heart pleads for [the mother] and her family,” Payne said. “Montey Murray is not guilty. He is presumed innocent.”
Testimony is expected to continue Wednesday morning in Brunswick County Superior Court.
Read previous coverage:
- Jury selection continues Tuesday in Brunswick first-degree murder trial
- Jurors dismissed in murder trial after conversation between juror, TV news reporter
- DA speaks out on murder indictment 18 months after child’s death
- Wilmington man indicted on first-degree murder charge in death of 3-year-old boy
Christina Haley is a crime and courts reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.