May 20, 2021

Foster Parents Accused in Death of 4-Year-Old

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Jacksonville foster parents of a 4-year-old boy who died in April were arrested in connection with his death.

Alex Pino is charged with second-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. Michelle Sipko is charged with manslaughter and neglect in the death of James Reese Jr. Both appeared before a judge and are held without bond pending their June 3rd arraignment. 

Sipko’s lawyers questioned the probable cause for the arrest. The State Attorney’s Office responded with the doctor’s findings, which include blunt force trauma and at least six fractures. The prosecutes stated that Sipko knew of the abuse Reese endured. Reese’s 8-year-old sister reported wanting to call the police about what was happening to her brother and was told by Sipko, “we don’t call police in this house.”

“We Don’t Call Police in this House”

On April 15th, Reese was taken to Wolfson Children’s Hospital to treat a broken collarbone. Once there, the doctors found head injuries, and sadly, Reese died on April 21st from his injuries. Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office database did not determine the death to be murder until April 22.

“I have a little bit of relief that the wheels of justice are turning for now and that James will get justice and that his death was not overlooked and set to the side,” Uncle Christopher Nastasi said.

Redacted Arrest Warrant Findings

According to a partially redacted arrest warrant, Pino told investigators at the hospital that he gave Reese a bath on the morning of the 15th. He took Reese to his room and told him to get dressed. Pino left the room for a moment and returned to find Reese on the floor, motionless.

Pino told Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office that he thought the boy was, “messing” with him. According to the arrest warrant, once Pino realized it was serious, he tried giving Reese chest compressions. However, a responding Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department member told investigators, a slightly different recounting of events from Pino. One where Reese had been dressed for school, urinated on himself, got another bath, changed his clothes, and then was found unconscious. This was not shared with investigators by the pair and therefore not in the warrant.

Sipko told police that she was not home at the time of the incident and when she came back, Reese was already unresponsive.

Further Investigation

The investigation found Reese had missed daycare from March 31st-April 12th due to his vaccinations lapsing. His vaccines were updated on April 7th, though his recommended physical was not given at that time. Department of Children and Families came to the home on April 13th and reported all children to be in good health.

When executing a search warrant at the home, investigators found information on nontraumatic intracranial hemorrhaging, which appeared to be printed from an internet search. The warrant quotes the consulting neuropathologist on the case to have found the death to be “undoubtedly a homicide.”

In Conclusion

In conclusion, Reese’s young life loss is a tragedy. We must continue to advocate for foster care reform and encourage others to speak up for children in care. Whether you are a mandated reporter or not, if you see something questionable it is best to say something. It is best to say anything.

Join us in our efforts to support kids in care here.

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