Father of 2-year-old beaten to death by cousin is on trial for 2014 murder

The father of a Florida two-year-old girl, allegedly beaten to death by her older cousin while the children were unsupervised, is facing a murder charge of his own.

A Marion County jury is deliberating the fate of Kendall Corey Dustin Blyden, 29, of Ocala, on charges of first degree felony murder and aggravated child abuse. The Ocala Star Banner reports that Blyden has been in custody since October 2014 in the beating death of his then-girlfriend’s son, one-year-old Jayden Green.

As Blyden’s trial played out in one courtroom this week, his 10-year-old nephew, Berhaun Blyden, on Thursday made his first appearance before a judge in the same courthouse for the death of Blyden’s own daughter, Journee Blyden. The little girl died in June of blunt force trauma while she, Berhaun and his younger sister were left alone by the cousin’s mother.

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Journee was staying with her cousins while her mother, Nicole Davis, was out of town for several months trying to secure a job, Davis told the Star Banner. She said she was out of town on June 21 when she received a call that her daughter was in the hospital.

She returned to her daughter’s side at UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville, where Journee ultimately died of her injuries, the newspaper reported. The little girl’s viable organs were donated to other children needing transplants.

An autopsy found multiple skull fractures and bruises on Journee’s body, which her cousin initially claimed occurred when she fell out of a playpen. He later changed his story and told investigators he’d run into the kitchen with her in his arms and they fell, the Star Banner reported.

The boy said he put the little girl on the counter to check on her and accidentally knocked her to the floor. He remained in custody Friday and was anticipated to face the charges in juvenile court.

Davis blames poor supervision and neglect for her daughter’s death, and said she feels sorry for Berhaun. She said she believes he needs counseling, but expressed worry that, if released, he could further harm his sister or other children.  

The Star Banner said the sister told authorities that her brother had beat her and Journee multiple times when they were left alone while their mother ran errands.

Kendall Blyden gave a similar story in 2014 of his girlfriend’s son falling from a “pack ‘n play”-style crib, the newspaper reported. Rhonda Stroup, who was a Marion County detective on the case, testified Wednesday that the crib was only about 27 inches high, a height inconsistent with the injuries Jayden suffered.

Dr. Torrey Baines, a doctor who treated Jayden at the same hospital where Journee died, testified that the baby boy suffered critical brain injuries and retinal bleeding, a sign of being shaken violently, the newspaper said.

Jayden, also like Journee, was taken off of life support a couple of days after he was admitted to the hospital. 

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