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Trial ordered for father accused in son’s death

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James Melvin Scott will head to district court on charges of neglect of his 23-year old son with muscular dystrophy, Brandon, resulting in death after the case was bound over by Division Four Judge David Finger on Tuesday.

Originally James Melvin Scott was charged with abuse of a resident, a second-degree felony and, in the alternative, neglect of a resident, also a second-degree felony. Finger told those in court Tuesday, there was not enough proof of abuse but the alternative charge had probable cause.

The court heard from six witnesses, including the medical investigator who originally reported the neglect, two caregivers, two teachers from when Brandon was enrolled in Hobbs municipal schools, and the police investigator for the case.

The defense attorney’s, Freeman Fraust, argument during the preliminary examination stood on Brandon being a 23-year-old adult and capable of making his own medical decisions, and who refused to seek or ask for medical treatment.

“We have a physically disabled man who was mentally an adult, who could make his own decisions about his care,” said Fraust in closing statements. “Who asked people for things when he needed them or wanted them, and told people when he didn’t want something. This right to refuse care is instrumental to the statued itself as well as the constitutional right to privacy and autonomy.”

Fifth Judicial District Attorney Dianna Luce tried to show a history of neglect that went back to when Brandon was in elementary school.

“This is a historical pattern and failure to provide basic care and life needs to make a person comfortable, even if their wishes are to not have treatment and to die. They get to die with some kind of dignity,” said Luce in closing statements. “Brandon Scott did not have any type of dignity, he was left with a complete lack of care.”

James Melvin Scott appeared as a witness for the defense testifying he did what he could, and was allowed to do, for his son. In his testimony the father denied seeing bedsores on his son and denied Brandon Scott would tell him to stop moving him to clean him, due to it hurting.

James Melvin Scott’s preliminary examination was originally scheduled for May 14 with Finger in Magistrate Court. After hearing from two witnesses, the examination was postponed.

During the first hearing, Brandon Scott’s death was ruled accidental due to the muscular dystrophy being a contributing factor, by the witness Dr. Karen Ziegler, with the New Mexico Office of the Medical Examiner (NMOME) in Albuquerque.

During the autopsy of Brandon Scott’s body she discovered hip fractures causing him to be immobile and that contributed to complications in his health, Ziegler testified.

Although the death was ruled accidental, later in Ziegler’s testimony, she clarified some of the issues leading up to Brandon Scott’s death, such as the skin ulcers, could have been helped by better hygiene habits.

“He had many findings of poor hygiene. The findings of his skin with the ulcers as well as the crusting of what appeared to be feces on his skin,” said Ziegler. “As well as crusting of old skin cells, just looked like the skin had not been washed.”

According to the Lovington Police Department criminal complaint filed when James Melvin Scott was arrested, the Office of Medical Investigator (OMI) field investigator called the police due to Brandon Scott’s death being “the worst case of medical neglect I have seen in my career.”

The report stated, Brandon Scott was taken to Nor Lea Hospital in Lovington after James Melvin Scott called an ambulance when his son was unable to breathe.

“Brandon was hyper-ventilating because he was getting scared; ‘He was gasping for breath and that’s when I called EMS,’” the complaint stated.

According to the complaint, concerns of the condition the body included: “the victim was filthy and foul smelling. It appeared that he had not been washed in months, and his skin had formed a greenish-brown thick crust at various points in his body. The victim appeared to be covered in dried feces, some of it in his hair and ears. The victim was covered in open, raw bed sores, some were deep, fissure-like red cracks in his skin.”

The officer stated in the criminal complaint, in the last several months of Brandon’s life is when James Melvin Scott began hiring “under-qualified ‘companions” who described their jobs as “more housework than anything.”

The criminal complaint also stated the conditions Brandon Scott was described to be living in were ‘laying in his own feces and urine for a year’ without being changed or moved,” a companion worker stated.

During the investigation it was determined the neglect went back years when Brandon Scott was in school. The criminal complaint detailed reports from Brandon Scott’s school teachers between the school years of 2006-12, claiming to report the boy’s condition to CYFD for years.

According to the criminal complaint, the school reported to the CYFD also were mostly unanswered by CYFD officials, said Hobbs school officials. The criminal complaint states that in 2012, Brandon Scott was disenrolled from school and essentially “falls off the radar screen.”

Brandon Scott died on Dec. 20, 2019, and James Melvin Scott was arrested following a four-month-long investigation, on April 20, after he was determined as his son’s caregiver. He was released on an unsecured bond of $100,000 the day after his arrest.

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