MORGAN COUNTY, Ind. – Brayson Price was just 5 years old when he died.
“The sweetest soul you could ever meet. I took him everywhere. Everywhere that we went he was attached to my hip, even at home,” said Brayson’s father, Justin Morgan.
Police say Brayson was abused for years. His death was ruled a homicide. The cause? Intentional overdose and suffocation. His mother and her boyfriend are serving time, found guilty in connection to Brayson’s death.
“39 years is a long time but how much is a child’s life worth?” said Morgan.
Morgan never got to say goodbye to his son, who he only had supervised visits with because of ongoing custody disputes.
“I was living with her up until maybe he was a year and a half. She started to cut me out of Brayson’s life and it got really difficult to see him,” said Morgan.
While Morgan was fighting for custody, police say Brayson was stuck in a living nightmare of repeated abuse. Court records show Meghan Price and Steven Ingalls Jr. Googled the phrases “most painful forms of torture” and killing techniques.
“The first time I called DCS was when he broke his leg,” said Morgan.
Court records show the extent of the abuse. Over the years, Brayson suffered a broken arm, broken femur, and numerous burns and bruises.
In 2014, an aunt called DCS after she noticed a handprint and bruises all over the child’s body. In 2015, someone called to alert the agency that the child had a broken femur. Morgan told DCS his son identified Ingalls as the abuser. Then in 2016, a school bus aide called DCS, telling them she overheard Price threatening Brayson at the bus stop and that the child was covered in bruises. At the same time, Morgan says a school nurse checked Brayson for injuries every day then took photos of the obvious signs of abuse.
“In one of them, he had a busted lip. She would find bruises all over his body and would take pictures and she gave the pictures to DCS and still the ball was dropped,” said Morgan.
Within days, Price pulled Brayson out of school. She told investigators that her son would self-harm.
“That is her story every time. It is self-inflicted. He did it himself. How could a 35-pound little boy hurt himself like that?” said Morgan.
About one month later, Brayson was dead.
“They failed Brayson,” said Morgan.
Now, two years after Brayson’s death, Morgan still puts much of the blame on DCS. He filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming the agency was complicit in the death. According to the lawsuit, DCS received at least 11 reports of suspected abuse prior to Brayson’s death. According to court records, seven adults including Morgan himself, a teacher, a school nurse, a bus aide, a guidance center employee, and other family members called the agency. According to the lawsuit, each time, the state agency could not substantiate any of the allegations.
“These are people from all walks of life that tried to protect him,” said Morgan.
“If DCS would have stepped in, if they would have removed him and actually tried to get to the bottom of how this was occurring, then Brayson would still be alive,” said Morgan’s Attorney Oliver Younge.
“Things need to be changed,” said Morgan.
The Department of Child Services says they cannot comment on pending litigation or specific cases due to privacy laws. Price and Ingalls remain behind bars.