During the early morning hours of Saturday, September 19, 2020, police in Terre Haute, Indiana were called to a home at 3116 South 9 ½ Street for an unresponsive child. When they arrived, they found seven-year-old Leeam Pritcher in the front yard, accompanied by his father, Brandon Pritcher, and immediately began performing CPR on the little guy, who was rushed to Regional Hospital by Terre Haute Fire Department medics.
The same day, Leeam was taken by helicopter to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, where he was pronounced brain dead. Leeam Allen Pritcher, who was born on October 25, 2012, was pronounced dead on September 20, 2020, although he remained on life support until Thursday, September 24 until his organs could be harvested.
(Riley Hospital for Children may sound familiar; it was the same facility where Lauren McConniel took her last breath on March 9, 2010. In addition to my blog post about Lauren, I also covered her story in two parts on Suffer the Little Children Podcast.)
As an organ donor, Leeam is a true superhero. Indiana Donor Network posted a quote from Leeam’s mother, Raven Layton, who said, “Leeam would light up every room he walked in with his breathtaking bright blue eyes and his contagious smile. He loved with his whole heart and he loved hard. Momma cuddles, ‘fart brother’ step dad, grandma’s spaghetti and meatballs, his baby sister… and of course playing football were his most favorite things in life. I know Leeam wouldn’t have hesitated to be a hero and save as many lives as he could. Mommy loves you so much baby boy. Avengers Assemble!”
The injuries Leeam suffered were described in brutal detail in a probable cause affidavit:
“…Leeam had apparent bruising and discoloration across the entirety of both buttocks. Leeam had purple and red discoloration of the skin on both buttocks and areas where it appeared the blood vessels had ruptured. Leeam had numerous areas on both buttocks where there were ‘welts’ and the skin was raised. Leeam had bruising on both knees, both ankles, underneath his right armpit, right hip, right elbow, and left ear. Leeam had bruising on the exterior and interior area of his left ear along with purple discoloration of the skin. Leeam had areas on both legs that had numerous red lesions where it appeared the tissue had been damaged. Leeam had dried blood around his nose area but [Officer] Gant did not witness any injuries or trauma to the front of his face or head. The ER staff told him the injuries to the left ear appeared to be the result of ‘blunt force trauma’ and stated that Leeam had internal bruising of his ear. The emergency room staff checked the area of the head covered by Leeam’s hair and advised they did not see any injuries/trauma.”
The affidavit also detailed what Brandon Pritcher told police when interviewed at THPD headquarters on September 19 by Detective Stoelting and Detective Toney. Brandon initially told the detectives that at around 2:30 or 3:00 AM, he heard Leeam moving around the house and confronted him, thinking Leeam was trying to steal money. Brandon told the detectives that Leeam’s supposed stealing and lying had been an ongoing issue as of late and that he was very upset with his son about it, so he lost control, beating his son across the buttocks with the belt he was wearing during the interview.
“Brandon explained that he kept hitting Leeam because he thought he would tell where he had put the money,” the affidavit stated. “Sometime during the evening he said he hit the walls with his fist… Brandon admitted to hitting Leeam in the head, both the back and side of his head. He admitted that he hit him hard, but did not believe it was the cause of his injuries. He also admitted to losing control.”
Brandon told the detectives that afterward, Leeam locked himself in his room and began hitting the top of his head on the bed, at which point Brandon forced the door open. “After Leeam hit his own head on the bed he said that Leeam walked out of the bedroom and made a strange noise before collapsing to the floor, unresponsive. Brandon said that Leeam was bleeding from the nose. He tried to perform CPR in the kitchen on the floor and also splashed water on Leeam, but it did not work.”
Brandon told investigators he sent a text message to his former girlfriend, Felicia Mize, which Felicia later sent to Detective Stoelting. In the message, Brandon reportedly told Felicia he thought he accidentally killed Leeam and would be going to prison for a long time.
According to Felicia in Facebook comments, Brandon had full custody of Leeam. She had helped raise Leeam for the past four years, and even though she broke up with Brandon on June 29, she was still involved in his son’s life. “Even after I left Brandon I was still buying groceries and paying bills at that house to make sure that boy was cared for,” she said.
On September 21, which was coincidentally Brandon’s 27th birthday, Terre Haute Police juvenile detectives arrested him and booked him into Vigo County Jail, where he remains held with no bond.
According to Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rob Roberts, Brandon Levi Pritcher was officially charged on September 22 with murder, as well as five other felony counts, including: neglect of a dependent resulting in death and aggravated battery, both Level 1 felonies; domestic battery resulting in death to a person under age 14, a Level 2 felony; and domestic battery resulting in serious bodily injury to a person less than age 14 and neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury, both Level 3 felonies.
Brandon appeared in court on Thursday, September 24, where he was appointed indigent counsel at the county’s expense. He is represented by public defender Matthew V. Daley.
Also at the hearing, Brandon pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, but I’m willing to bet he will end up taking a plea deal. Time will tell.
Several future court dates have already been scheduled in the case, which is being overseen by Vigo County Circuit Court Judge Sarah K. Mullican, including:
- Status conference at 9:00 AM on November 12, 2020
- Status conference at 9:00 AM on January 29, 2021
- Pretrial conference at 10:00 AM on May 13, 2021
- Jury trial scheduled to begin at 9:00 AM on June 7, 2021
According to Leeam’s obituary, he was a second grader at Fuqua Elementary School, and he loved Spider-Man and all things Marvel-related. Leeam leaves behind his mother, Raven Layton, and stepdad, Logan McKenzie; his stepmom, Felisha Mize; two siblings and a step-sibling; and multiple grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. He also had a puppy named Jax at his father’s house, who will now be cared for by his mom and housed by her neighbor, as she is not allowed to keep pets of her own.
Leeam had been part of the Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club for about four years, where he played football and basketball in addition to attending programs and camps.
Trent Miles, CEO of the Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club, told the Tribune-Star, “He was a great kid and had an infectious smile. Everybody loved him… He was in the building on almost a daily basis at certain times.”
Leeam’s death has been difficult to process for club staff as well as his young friends. Mr. Miles said, “It’s been very difficult. The kids in the club have asked about him… It hit me pretty hard.”
The club has made grief counselors available for anyone who needs to talk about the loss.
On Wednesday, September 23, Leeam’s football team, in addition to hundreds of spectators, other Terre Haute Youth Football League teams, and local high school football players, paid tribute to him. First, a moment of silence was observed, after which those in attendance formed a tunnel for Leeam’s team, the Raiders, to walk through as they took the field carrying a banner featuring Leeam’s name, his jersey number — 20 — and the slogan “Forever in our hearts.”
Leeam’s football team, the Raiders, was sponsored by Preferred Construction, Inc., which posted a team photo on its Facebook page on September 28 along with the caption, “Leeam Pritcher forever on our team #20.” The Raiders will display decals on their helmets for the rest of the season with ribbons and Leeam’s number.
The Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club and the Youth Football League have created a scholarship fund in Leeam’s name for first and second grade kids who otherwise couldn’t afford to play football. The club has plans to install a display case in which they will display Leeam’s game pants, his shoulder pads, a jersey, his photo, and his teddy bear. I’m tearing up just imagining it.
In addition, the Terre Haute Parks Department is donating a bench to the club’s ballpark, which will feature a plaque with Leeam’s name.
The Boys and Girls Club’s Twitter account has been honoring Liam by posting photos of him. On September 25, they posted a photo with the caption, “We miss you dearly, Leeam! Your memory will be engraved in our hearts forever.”
They also posted various other sentiments, including:
“Leeam joined our family about 4 years ago & was involved in many of our programs. We cherish these memories. We honored Leeam this week at our ballpark, where Leeam spent a lot of time. We are thankful to those who came to support our young players & to honor Leeam.”
“Though this tragedy hits us hard, we want to remember Leeam with his bright smile and unforgettable blue eyes.”
Ashton Stevenson, the program director for the Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club, described Leeam as “always a joy to be around. He was so happy all the time. His blue eyes and smile would just brighten up your whole day.”
One of Leeam’s uncles, William Layton, created a GoFundMe campaign to assist his sister, Raven. He wrote in the campaign description that someone has generously offered to assist with the cremation costs, and a plot has also been donated to them. However, there will be multiple other costs for Raven and Logan, including attorney’s fees, additional funeral costs, and medical bills, as Leeam did not have medical insurance. They also want to buy a headstone for Leeam featuring a photo of their handsome little boy.
William also said of his nephew, “Leeam was a huge football fan with a heart full of love. Leeam loved visiting all of his family, [especially] his grandmother. Leeam never met a stranger and was quick to throw anyone his heartwarming smile.”
Leeam’s paternal grandma, Dawn, reminisced about him on Facebook, saying, “I remember when he came to our house and at night I’d put him [in] his feety pajamas. I’d talk and he’d always answer with ‘huh’ and his blue eyes would be so wide. I’d say kid you’re killing me with those blue eyes and he answered ‘huh’. Lol. I always told him you got your momma’s eyes and he said you have blue eyes grandma. I told yes but your bright blue eyes came from your momma. He asked me how do you know my mom? I laughed and told him that I fell in love with your mom the minute I saw those beautiful blue eyes. He was so fascinated that I knew you before he was born… [He] loved it when I would tell stories about [his] parents when they were kids. [He] would say wow grandma you’re really old. Lol”
On September 29, WTHI-TV 10 published an interview with Raven, who spoke about her baby, what he meant to her, and how his loss has affected her. “His bright blue eyes would light up a room as soon as he walked into it,” Raven said tearfully. “He loved being outside, he loved fishing, swimming, playing football, or just walking through the woods.”
She said, “There couldn’t really be one emotion to describe how anyone would feel in this situation. I couldn’t describe it in a million words about how I feel about losing a portion of my heart.”
Raven has made multiple public posts on Facebook since Leeam’s death, each more heartbreaking than the last. “I miss you so much,” she wrote on September 27, “I miss your smart mouth, I miss your voice, I miss momma cuddles. I know youd be telling me ‘ it’s okay mommy ‘ because that’s what you always said whenever I was upset… You were the most sweetest, loving and caring little boy I know. You are my baby, you were the happiest, funniest, smartest and most handsome boy and the best part is that you knew you were…”
On September 19, she wrote, “I want everyone to do me a favor. If you’re a parent just hold your babies right now. just take a second and hold them and just be grateful they are in your arms. hold them so tight and dont ever let go of them.”
More than once, she posted, “I love you, I love you more, I love you most.”
Leeam should be celebrating his 8th birthday on October 25. Instead, on October 10, his surviving family and friends will say goodbye to Leeam at a celebration of life service at North United Methodist Church in Brazil, Indiana. The service, which is being arranged by Grenier Funeral Home, will begin at 5:00 PM.
My heart is broken for Raven, all of Leeam’s family, and everyone who loved him. Rest in peace, sweet boy.
Click here for my ongoing coverage of Leeam’s story.
Sources: Tribune-Star, WTHI-TV 10, 1049 WAXI, Grenier Funeral Home, Indiana MyCase portal, Indiana Statewide VINE, Indiana Central News, Indiana Donor Network, Facebook, court documents