Opening statements to begin for Banning couple accused in beating death of 2-year-old

RIVERSIDE – Opening statements are scheduled today in the trial of a Banning couple accused in the beating death of the woman’s 2-year-old son.

Andrew Lee Payne, 24, could face 25 years to life in prison and Davia Damanique James, 23, could face 15 years to life behind bars if convicted in the death of the youngster, identified in court documents as John Doe.

The child died from severe head trauma last Nov. 11.

Payne and James have separate juries because different witnesses will be called to testify against each defendant.

Payne is charged with second-degree murder, assault on a child resulting in great bodily injury, falsifying a prescription and possession of illegal drugs. James is charged with second-degree murder and child endangerment.

Each is being held in lieu of $1 million bail — Payne at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, James at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside. The woman has had another child while in custody.

According to Banning police, officers were sent to the defendants’ single-story house at 1435 W. Hays St. two days before John Doe’s death to investigate a report of an injured child. Deputy District Attorney Kevin Beecham told City News Service that investigators learned from doctors that the 2-year-old had suffered a compressed spine, punctured lung and other internal and external injuries.

The prosecutor said there was also brain hemorrhaging from a blow to the toddler’s head. Most of the injuries appear to have been inflicted while James was shopping and Payne was supposed to be watching the boy, according to investigators.

Beecham said the child remained in the residence, drifting in and out of consciousness for two days before James requested an ambulance.

The tot died that week in the pediatric intensive care unit at Loma Linda University Medical Center.

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