SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — The girlfriend of a Sarasota man who is accused of playing video games as he smothered his 6-year-old son on a couch, had asked the man to “squish” the boy as a form of punishment and helped pin the boy on the couch, according to an arrest affidavit released by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday.
Ashley Maymarie Cole, 22, was arrested Monday and is now charged in connection with the death of James Dearman, age 6. Cole is being held without bond in the Sarasota County Jail on one count of principal to aggravated manslaughter of a child.
Detectives say James “Rick” Dearman, 31, who weighs 270 lbs., was on the couch playing a video game and at the same time used his body weight to smother his son, James.
Deputies responded to a home in Englewood at about 10:10 p.m. They arrived to find paramedics performing CPR on a 6-year-old boy in the living room. The boy was transported to Englewood Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Detectives interviewed Dearman’s girlfriend, Ashley Cole, who said that she and Dearman live together at the home. She told detectives that Dearman’s two children were not sleeping in their bedroom as they were told to. Dearman allegedly told the children to stand facing the wall and put their noses on the wall as punishment.
According to Cole’s arrest affidavit, during a follow-up interview, detectives say Cole told them that the initial punishment of “nose-to-wall” was not working. Cole asked Dearman if they could elevate the punishment to “squishing” and Dearman agreed.
The boy was forced to lie on his side on the couch with his face against the rear couch cushions. Dearman then allegedly pinned the boy against the couch using his bodyweight.
New details included in Cole’s arrest affidavit say Cole intentionally placed the child’s feet between her back and the couch, while Dearman used his body weight to restrict the boy’s breathing.
The boy was screaming that he could not breathe and was trying to free himself. Detectives say Dearman ignored the boy’s pleas and he and Cole continued to play video games.
Cole’s arrest affidavit also said that Cole never helped the victim when he yelled that he could not breathe.
After five minutes, the boy became motionless. Dearman and Cole then allegedly went to the garage to smoke a cigarette and left the boy on the couch. Detectives say after 10 minutes, they returned from the garage and saw that the boy was not breathing. Dearman called 911 and attempted to perform CPR until paramedics came.
The dead child’s 7-year-old sibling witnessed the incident. When asked about the victim, the sibling responded, “When dad squished him, he got dead,” according to Dearman’s arrest affidavit.
The medical examiner said the boy’s death was caused by some sort of asphyxiation, based upon the pressure applied to the child’s back. The medical examiner said that the death is highly suspicious for homicidal suffocation, according to Cole’s arrest affidavit.
Dearman was arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse. The charged was later changed to aggravated manslaughter of a child.