Tina Dayton, the Columbus Ohio mother who was arrested in Florida on March 30 on suspicion of murder, has pleaded not guilty to two charges in connection with the October 2019 death of her two-year-old son, Clifford Alan “Jace” Stark III.
Tina had called 911 on October 7 to report her son injured. She claimed he had fallen off the bed. Jace was rushed to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, but he died the following day from his injuries.
An autopsy showed the baby’s death, which was ruled a homicide, was caused by multiple blunt force trauma. He suffered from extensive injuries, including internal bleeding, a lacerated liver, a badly broken arm, a laceration on his lip, and bruises on his forehead.
Tina was charged with Jace’s murder on March 24, but it wasn’t until she was located in Florida on March 30 by the Florida Caribbean Regional Fugitive Task Force that she was taken into custody and extradited to Ohio to face the music. While in Florida, she had been bouncing back and forth between sleeping in a car behind Walmart and crashing in a tent in someone’s backyard.
Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Ron O’Brien told a reporter, “Typically, the mother in this instance is not ordinarily charged with the murder herself. It’s the male friend of the mother, be it a parent, step-parent, or boyfriend, and the mother ends up being charged with endangering children, so it is rare that a mother actually be charged with murdering her own child.”
Last week, TIna was indicted on charges of murder and endangering children. On Friday, she appeared via video in Ohio’s Franklin County Common Pleas Court for her arraignment, at which time she pleaded not guilty to both charges. The judge ordered her bond set at $2 million.
Prosecutors asked for a high bond, according to O’Brien, due to the seriousness of the charges and based on the fact that Tina had fled to Florida. He also talked about Tina’s history as a parent and the fact that her children had previously been taken away by Franklin County Children Services, only to be returned approximately five months before Jace’s murder.
“It’s too bad that the child had been returned to the home, and we don’t have a crystal ball, and the court doesn’t have a crystal ball that this was going to happen,” O’Brien said, “but in retrospect, I wish the child had not been returned to the home.”
Welcome to the club, my friend.
Sources: WBNS 10TV