Schenectady County

Schenectady man indicted in toddler’s homicide

John J. Batease, 33, was brought to court Wednesday for the formal unsealing of a Schenectady County

The father of slain 20-month-old Asiah Maxam sat in the gallery of a Schenectady County courtroom Wednesday morning, looking straight ahead as a victim’s advocate periodically rubbed his shoulder.

In the courtroom, directly ahead of James Maxam, was John J. Batease, the man accused of killing his son.

Batease, 33, was brought to court for the formal unsealing of a Schenectady County grand jury indictment charging him with one count each of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter.

The charges stem from the death in June of Asiah, a little boy described by family and friends as a happy child who loved it when a family friend carried him around the house in a laundry basket.

Asiah’s father met with prosecutors after Wednesday’s arraignment, but declined to comment afterward.

But prosecutor Tracey Brunecz said later the family is pleased that there is now an indictment.

“They are handling things as well as anybody could in these situations,” Brunecz said. “What Jimmy has told us is he has left things at this time in God’s hands.”

The family released a statement Wednesday through the district attorney’s office thanking the community for its support and requesting privacy from the media.

“We have put our faith and trust in God and the criminal justice system, and are confident that justice will ultimately prevail and the person responsible for the death of Asiah will be held accountable,” the family wrote.

Batease had long been the focus of the investigation into Asiah’s death. Batease was the boyfriend of Asiah’s mother and was watching the child and several of Asiah’s siblings that evening.

It was Batease who carried Asiah out of 611 Hattie St. on June 19 and asked neighbors to summon paramedics. The neighbors said then that he told them Asiah had fallen from a crib.

An investigation was immediately launched, with the autopsy confirming Asiah’s death was not accidental but a homicide.

Prosecutors described the cause of death as “blunt force trauma.” They did not elaborate.

In court, Batease stood with public defender Lauren Mack and formally pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Dressed in an orange jail uniform, his hands cuffed in front of him, Batease gave his name, age, date of birth and other information, when prompted by Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago.

The jail uniform made many of Batease’s tattoos visible, including a woman’s name on his neck, a star on his left elbow and a New York Yankees “NY” logo on his upper left arm. The “N” in the “NY” appeared reversed.

His head was also shaved, except for what appeared to be a faint stripe down the middle.

While entering and leaving court, Batease held an envelope over his face to shield himself from being photographed.

At the conclusion of the arraignment, Drago ordered Batease held without bail.

Batease has been held since Asiah’s death in July on $35,000 bail on unrelated criminal contempt counts.

According to a July hearing, Batease has been arrested 20 times, charged with eight felonies and convicted of two. He also has been cited for failing to appear in court four times and has a criminal record in Virginia from 2000-02.

The contempt charges relate to a phone call Batease made the night of Asiah’s killing. After being questioned by police that night, Batease allegedly used an investigator’s phone to call another woman in violation of an order of protection. Investigators realized immediately what had happened and arrested him.

Batease’s attorney in the contempt case, Kent Gebert, has said that Batease told him Asiah was injured in a fall from a crib.

The autopsy and other evidence, Brunecz said Wednesday, shows otherwise.

“Our evidence leads us to believe, if the child fell from his crib, it did not cause his death,” she said.

In the days after Asiah’s death, Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney indicated investigators had to examine all the possibilities in the case before reaching a conclusion.

They also needed to interview the other children in the home. Prosecutors did not indicate Wednesday whether any of the other children provided useful information.

In a statement Wednesday, Carney thanked investigators and evidence technicians of the Schenectady Police Department and state police, along with medical experts who interpreted evidence and the grand jury.

If convicted on the murder count, Batease faces up to 25 years to life in state prison. The manslaughter charge carries a maximum of 25 years.

The case is being prosecuted by Brunecz and Christina Tremante-Pelham.

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