The 3-month-old son of two police officers, who are charged in connection with his abuse, is in a vegetative state at a Charlotte hospital and “will likely never recover” from “horrific” and “severe” injuries, 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett told a York County judge Wednesday.
In what “can only be a shaken-baby case,” Brackett said, the abuse was so severe that Jaxon Jennings Taylor – despite being unable to move or eat without a feeding tube – “is in some pain” and exhibits “periodic cries.”
The prosecutor’s description of brain, neck and bodily injuries and his claim that the boy could die were the first time the severity of the alleged abuse was has been detailed publicly.
Robert Jeffrey Taylor Jr., 45, of Rock Hill, is charged with child abuse and neglect, which could land him in prison for 30 years if convicted. The charges come after Taylor, with no prior criminal record, spent more than 18 years arresting suspects – much of that time as a police supervisor.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Shackled in court Wednesday, Taylor said nothing as Brackett detailed allegations that Taylor was an abusive parent to the point that Taylor’s son could die from the injuries.
Defense attorney Jim Boyd said Taylor “disputes the facts” prosecutors cited as the cause of the child’s injuries, but he did not provide any details in court about Taylor’s version of events. After court, Boyd declined to comment further.
The brain and neck injuries Jaxon suffered Feb. 15 could only have been caused by violent shaking or a fall from 20 feet or more, Brackett said during a bond hearing. When the baby arrived at Piedmont Medical Center last month, he said, he was foaming at the mouth, had bruises on his neck and was suffering from a lack of oxygen.
Jaxon’s eyes were bleeding so much, Brackett said, that he likely will be blind if he survives.
Other than a fall or a car crash, Brackett told the courtroom packed with Taylor’s relatives, “these injuries could not have been inflicted by accident.
“We don’t know if this child will survive much longer.”
Brackett painted a picture of Taylor as a monster father who choked and shook the baby, leaving bleeding in the eyes that a doctor called horrific. If Jaxon dies, prosecutors could seek charges ranging up to homicide by child abuse or even murder.
The child’s mother, Audrey Schurig, also a police officer, is charged with neglect. Brackett said Schurig “failed to adequately protect the child” from Taylor.
After the hearing, Schurig’s lawyer, Gary Lemel, reiterated that “there is no allegation that Audrey Schurig committed any abuse.”
Schurig was released on $2,000 bond earlier this month. After her arrest, she resigned from the Chester Police Department, where she had worked as a sergeant on patrol. She once worked for the York County Sheriff’s Office and the Tega Cay Police Department.
Child neglect carries up to 10 years in prison, upon conviction.
The couple lived together after Taylor was divorced in February 2014. The child was in the custody of only Taylor and Schurig in the 24 hours leading up to the time they took the baby to the hospital, Brackett said, but Schurig was at work immediately before the couple sought medical treatment.
“Mr. Taylor was solely in charge of the child at that time,” Brackett said.
Circuit Court Judge John C. Hayes III set bond for Taylor – who was a patrol corporal for the York Police Department at the time of the alleged abuse, and for more than a decade before that was a Rock Hill police sergeant – at $100,000. Hayes also ordered Taylor to have no contact with Jaxon or any children younger than 12. He also must wear a GPS monitor and will be under house arrest, staying with his mother in South Carolina or his father in North Carolina.
Taylor has been in custody since March 6 – first in Charlotte and then at the York County Detention Center in York after waiving extradition from North Carolina. Both Taylor and Schurig were arrested at the Charlotte hospital where the child was being treated.
Brackett asked Hayes to make a condition of Taylor’s bond be that he would have no contact with any children, but Jim Boyd argued it was “absurd” to think that Taylor was going to grab another child and started shaking him. Boyd also said it would be “absurd” to say Taylor would be a flight risk or a danger to the community – which are the only reasons not to set bond for a defendant.
“He is not only not a danger to the community,” Boyd said, “he was a protector of the community.” A few weeks ago, he said, Taylor “could have walked into this court carrying a gun, and nobody would have thought anything of it.”
The publicity surrounding the case has mushroomed because of Taylor’s job as a police officer, Boyd said, and that Taylor’s version of what happened on Feb. 15 is far different than what prosecutors allege. He said pointing to eye bleeding as proof of shaken-baby syndrome is “disputed and very controversial.”
Brackett countered that Jaxon is in a vegetative state and is now in protective custody of the state Department of Social Services, but he had been a patient at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte for more than a month.
Taylor resigned from the York Police Department, where he had worked since July 2014, two days before he was arrested. He worked for the Lancaster Police Department for about five months before that.
State Law Enforcement Division agents investigated the case because Taylor worked in Rock Hill – where the incident happened – for more than a decade as patrolman and patrol sergeant.
Cases that both Taylor and Schurig worked before losing their jobs could be dismissed.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065