Sheriff releases more details on 2-year-old’s drowning, mom’s arrest

Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 10:29 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is speaking out about the drowning death of a 2-year-old this week.

Justus Hyman was pronounced dead at 5:50 p.m. on Monday after being transported to the Augusta University Medical Center. He was sent there after falling into a family friend’s pool on Sunday.

Authorities arrested his mother, a move that some in the community have questioned.

“The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, along with our community, mourns the loss of a precious two-year old’s innocent soul,” the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday in a statement.

“We are aware that there have been many comparisons to the drowning death of this child to the drowning case of a child in another county,” the agency said in an apparent reference to the Burke County drowning death of Izzy Scott, in which the swimming instructor has not been charged.

“We have no jurisdiction as to how another agency decides to pursue or not pursue criminal charges based on their investigation,” the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office said. “We can only proceed by the facts and circumstances presented to us at the time of our incident. This is still an active investigation so all the details cannot be revealed at this time; however, as a matter of public record, we wanted to provide the probable cause we summited to obtain an arrest warrant in this case.”

Here is the probable cause, as provided by Richmond County deputies and stated in the arrest warrant:

“On October 16, 2022, Domonique Murray, along with two of her children, Justus Hyman and Unique Hyman, arrived at 34XX Merrimac Ave to hang out with Domonique Murray’s friend. At 3:12 pm, Justus Hyman exits the rear door of the living room, which lead to the back patio and pool area. Justus Hyman is unsupervised for ten minutes as he walks around the pool and throws miscellaneous items into the pool. At 3:29 pm, Justus Hyman falls into the shallow end of the pool and was not discovered by anyone until 3:50 pm, when Domonique Murray pulled him out of the pool and began chest compressions.

First Responders arrived on scene and Justus Hyman was transported to Augusta University Medical Center via ambulance, where he remains in critical condition. Justus Hyman suffered a brain hemorrhage and his injuries are considered life-threatening.

Justus Hyman was in the care of Domonique Murray, his mother, at the time of the incident. This incident occurred at 34XX Merrimac Avenue in Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia.”

Domonique Murray was charged with cruelty to children in the second degree and committed to the Charles B. Webster Detention Center. She subsequently appeared before a magistrate judge and her bond was denied pending an appearance before a Superior Court Judge.

“This investigation is still active and its final outcome has not been determined,” the sheriff’s agency said.

We spoke with the family, who is in disbelief over the mom’s arrest.

Demetrius Miller, Murray’s mom. “My daughter is a great mother, and I am so distraught by the system because I felt like it failed her,” said Demetrius Miller, Murray’s mom.

Her daughter had just returned from her honeymoon. She was over at a family friend’s house on Merrimac Avenue with two of her children when they couldn’t find Justus, or Baby J, as they called him.

Katrima Smalley is Murray’s aunt. She said, “No one knew he had walked out the door. There’s no lock on the door. So, some kind of way he got out. We’re not sure how because we don’t have all the details. They started looking around the house for him because they thought he was in the house playing.”

The incident report calls the case accidental. It says Hyman attempted to go outside first, and they told him to stay inside.

The report says when they weren’t looking, the toddler went outside without them knowing, and they found him in the pool

“Yes, it’s an accident. And it’s horrible, but I don’t feel she should be charged with child cruelty. I don’t think she should be in jail at all because accidents do happen,” she said.

Once the deputy got on the scene, the report says the mother was performing CPR on her child.

Our I-TEAM found no criminal background for Murray. Her family says she’s a wonderful mother to three children, who’s never been arrested. Until now.

Miller said: “They have her locked up. She was not allowed to come to see her son leave this world.”

Now, along with grief, they’re feeling something else. Injustice that feels black and white.

As they draw comparisons to a case in Burke County, where a private, White pool instructor was not charged for the accidental drowning of a Black student in her care.

“Lexy Thompson. She hasn’t been charged with anything. Their child died in her care. This is injustice,” said Smalley.

Coroner Mark Bowen says an autopsy has been scheduled. We’ve reached out to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office to see if they plan to upgrade her charges.

Domonique Murray
Domonique Murray(WRDW)