A grand jury will hear the depraved heart murder case of a man charged in the death of his 11-month-old daughter.
A preliminary hearing for Vantrease Frazier continued in McComb Municipal Court on Wednesday.
Prosecutors showed videos of detectives questioning Frazier about the death of Janiyah Chambers. In those clips, Frazier told detectives he accidentally dropped his daughter and in his panic did not call for help.
Janiyah had been left in Frazier’s care while her mother, Luvenia Chambers, was at work on Sept. 21, police said. Chambers called police when she returned home and found Janiyah unresponsive.
Two days later, University of Mississippi Medical Center doctors declared Janiyah dead from blunt force injuries to the head, and McComb police upgraded Frazier’s child abuse charge to murder.
The prosecution officially changed that charge to the more specific depraved heart murder charge, leading Judge Brandon Frazier, no relation, to grant a continuance on last week’s hearing so the defense could properly prepare for the charges.
A depraved heart charge refers to a non-premeditated reckless disregard for human life.
In one of the clips shown in court Wednesday, Frazier told Detective Delre Smith that he was rocking the baby back and forth in his hands when he accidentally dropped her, and when he picked her up, her eyes had rolled back.
“I was trying to do something for her,” he told Smith. “I got so scared I didn’t even know what to do, so I laid her down.”
He told detectives that he then put a pacifier in her mouth and left to go to the store for beer and cigarettes about 10 minutes before Chambers arrived.
“I panicked, man. I panicked with both of them,” Frazier said.
He referred to an incident in 2019 when Chambers’ son, 2-year-old Bralyn Blunt, died after being left in his care. Frazier has not been charged in that matter, and McComb police are still investigating Bralyn’s death.
Frazier told Detective John Glapion that he did nothing to the kids and expressed sadness over their deaths.
“My baby’s dead. I didn’t do nothing to my baby,” Frazier told Glapion.
He told Smith that he had returned to Chicago, his legal residence, after Bralyn’s death but returned to McComb because Chambers was pregnant.
Frazier also discussed how, the week before Janiyah was found unconscious, she had fallen off the bed while playing and hit the front of her head.
In her closing statement, Miller contended that those injuries were not what UMMC doctors said led to Janiyah’s death.
“He’s admitted that he was playing with the child, holding her by her legs or feet. He never made any attempt to get any assistance for the child. He decided not to get her any assistance, didn’t call 911, laid the child in the bed, and he decided to go out,” Miller said.
Public defender Paul Luckett argued that UMMC doctors didn’t have the full story because they didn’t know about Janiyah’s fall off the bed.
“The words my client used were ‘accident,’ ‘panicked,’ ‘tried to catch her when she fell,’ ‘baby I’m sorry,’” Luckett said.“It is not evidence of a depraved heart because he panicked and did not tell anyone. It may be stupid; it may be child abuse.”
Miller countered that from Frazier’s descriptions of how hard Janiyah fell, he would have known she was seriously hurt.
“He knew he had caused damage to this baby’s head,” she said, adding that the depraved heart description of the murder didn’t necessarily refer to his actions leading to the accident.
Although Luckett asked Judge Frazier for a reasonable bond, Miller said the city “vehemently” opposed that due to Frazier’s previous frequent travel to Chicago and the ongoing investigation.
Judge Frazier set the defendant’s bond at $750,000.