Aunt of 2-year-old says family tried reporting abuse before his death

New court documents revealed disturbing details after a mom and her boyfriend were accused of crafting a story to cover up the death of a 2-year-old boy.

Harris County deputies said they were contacted on Tuesday, Jan. 26, regarding the death of Tevin "TJ" Jefferson. Authorities said TJ's mom, Darrielle Williams, took him to Houston Northwest Hospital, where he died shortly after his arrival.

While at the hospital, Williams claimed TJ had fallen and hit his head on the toilet after she "whipped" him in response to a potty training accident, but authorities said the 2-year-old's head injuries were not consistent with her story.

Doctors at the hospital found TJ had several areas of bruising all over his body, including multiple injuries to his head and torso. The doctor said the injuries were both new and old, with various stages of healing, court documents state.

TJ arrived at the hospital around 2:02 p.m. and was pronounced dead at 2:26 p.m., according to documents.

Williams' boyfriend, Johvonte Johnson, who was not originally reported to have been present at the time of the incident, arrived at the hospital a short time later.

Investigators said they interviewed Williams and Johnson and found their stories were not consistent with what they had observed. According to investigators, Williams and Johnson eventually admitted they made up the story about TJ falling.

According to a statement read when Johnson appeared at probable cause court on Thursday, TJ defecated on himself the afternoon of his death while potty training.

Document state Johnson admitted to "whipping" TJ five times in the back with an open hand, with the last strike causing TJ to hit his head on the rim of the toilet. That's when the toddler became unresponsive.

He also admitted to "whipping" TJ while potty training the night before.

According to the court statement, Johnson reportedly changed his account of what happened several times and continued to deny full involvement. Documents state Johnson also could not explain why the couple waited over an hour to take TJ to get medical attention.

Johnson, who authorities say is not the child's biological dad, conspired with Williams to make up the story about his injuries, according to investigators.

Williams eventually recanted her original statement and said she was not present when TJ was injured, admitting she fabricated those details, according to the statement.

Johnson's sister, Emmanda Thomas told ABC13 on Thursday that others had tried to report the alleged child abuse before this incident. Thomas said she would often spend time with "TJ" and called him her nephew.

"He was so sweet," Thomas said. "All he wanted was love. You can see it all on him. All he wanted was for you to love him."

A spokesperson with Child Protective Services confirmed to ABC13 that an investigation began after the child's death and the agency is working with local authorities. According to CPS, its agency has not seen an increase in child abuse cases due to the pandemic.

Dwilene Lindsey, founder of Children 4 Tomorrow said it's the opposite. The organization has received double the amount of calls during the pandemic and prolonged court proceedings.

"For them to get to through the court system, it takes a lot longer," Lindsey said. "I worked with somebody since March of last year and they are just now being able to get an assessment. You know, it's almost a year and these people, these kids are stuck in the middle of this stuff for a year because of the court system."

Lindsey said there are services available for parents who are trying to get their family out of a toxic environment and for those who need to report a child abuse incident or case. She said hopefully, it will prevent tragedies or cases similar to TJ's death from happening.

"He's no longer here and that hurts me," Lindsey said. "That bothers me a lot because you're talking about an innocent child that can't protect themselves and they're vulnerable."

Both Johnson and Williams were originally charged with injury to a child with serious bodily injury.

An autopsy of the 2-year-old revealed he died of blunt force trauma and also suffered multiple injuries that were in various states of healing. Due to the autopsy findings, Johnson's charge was upgraded to murder Thursday afternoon.

A GoFundMe has been made to help the family with funeral expenses.

Johnson appeared in court Wednesday night. He and Williams were each given $50,000 bonds and ordered to not have contact with one another.

Johnson's next court appearance is set for Feb. 9.

Children 4 Tomorrow provides wrap-around services for parents and children.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) recently launched a new website called GetParentingTips. According to CPS, it focuses on information, coping tips, and strategies that help parents navigate both common and difficult situations.

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