Mother, boyfriend charged with murder, other counts in death of 3-year-old Tippecanoe County boy

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Jermaine Garnes (left) and Crystal Cox (right)

LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A mother and her boyfriend face multiple charges, including murder, in connection with the death of a 3-year-old Tippecanoe County boy.

Crystal Cox and Jermaine Garnes were charged with murder, neglect of a dependent resulting in death, aggravated battery and battery resulting in death to a person less than 14 years old.

According to court documents, 3-year-old Zeus Cox was found unresponsive on July 5. The EMT who responded to the home determined that Zeus was dead. Responding officers observed bruises on the child’s chest, stomach and other areas of his body.

An autopsy report released on Aug. 10 determined Zeus died from multiple blunt force traumatic injuries to the abdomen, with the doctor determining they “represented non-accidental trauma.” The injuries included kidney lacerations, small intestine ruptures, rib fractures and internal bleeding.

The doctor noted that, while Zeus had numerous injuries on his body, the ones to the abdomen were “most responsible for precipitating death.” The autopsy also found that the injuries were not consistent with Cox’s and Garnes’ various explanations, including Zeus’ being whipped with a belt, falling down or having CPR performed on him after being found unresponsive.

Cox told police that she noticed bruising on Zeus’ legs while giving him a bath on July 3. She then told police that he had fallen on concrete while the family was celebrating July 4. She also said he’d run into a table a week earlier, leading to a bruise on his forehead.

Police found a text message dated June 29 to Garnes from Cox in which she’d written that they needed to get Zeus a swim shirt so no one could see the bruises, according to court documents.

Garnes told police that Zeus fell on July 4. He also said, about a week earlier, that the boy had fallen off a bike. He told police he’d “used a belt on Zeus’ bottom, and there would be marks from that.”

On the night of July 4, Zeus was throwing up and said he didn’t feel well. The couple gave him Pedialyte. When they woke up the next morning, the boy was unresponsive and they called 911, according to court documents.

A friend said he’d received a call from Garnes at 12:43 p.m. on July 5, in which Garnes spoke about Zeus’ death. The friend told police he asked Garnes if he’d killed the child; “Garnes ended up making a comment to the effect that he thought he did,” according to court documents.

Another friend recounted to police that Cox told her that “Jermaine killed [Zeus],” court documents said. Cox also expressed fears that she would get in trouble for covering it up.

According to court documents, Garnes hit Zeus because he was angry that his 9-year-old son had called him a name. Garnes then took it out on 3-year-old Zeus, police said. According to an account from Garnes’ son, Garnes “hit Zeus with his fist, and Zeus fell to the ground.” The boy said it happened in the living room while Cox was present on July 4. The boy also told investigators that he didn’t see Cox hit Zeus that day but that she had “hit Zeus on other occasions, usually with a belt.”

Cox had previously pleaded guilty to neglect of a dependent in connection with a 2013 case in Clinton County, according to court records.

Charges against Cox and Garnes were filed Monday.

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