Child Dies, Father Charged with Aggravated Child Abuse

News Release #: 15-270

UPDATE: The charge against James Dearman was enhanced to Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child on December 31, 2015. His girlfriend, Ashley Cole, was arrested on January 4, 2016, and charged with Principal to Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child.


The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office arrested an Englewood man in connection with the suspicious death of his 6-year-old son on Christmas Eve.

Deputies were called to the home at 11:10 p.m., by James Dearman, DOB 08/03/84, who said his son was unconscious and had stopped breathing. The child was transported to the hospital and pronounced dead. Responding deputies reported seeing bruising on the child's back.

The investigation revealed that while Dearman and his girlfriend were playing video games in the living room, Dearman made his son and 7-year-old sibling stand with their faces to the wall. When his son turned to look at the television, Dearman got angry and brought the child to the couch where he forced him to lie on his side and face the rear cushions. Dearman then used his body weight to pin his son down while he and his girlfriend continued to play video games. His son screamed that he couldn't breathe and begged to use the bathroom eventually urinating on the couch and becoming unconscious. Dearman and his girlfriend left the child on the couch, went to the garage to smoke a cigarette and later called 911.

Dearman was arrested Monday on an outstanding warrant from Georgia for Animal Cruelty and Criminal Damage to Property. Late Wednesday detectives working in conjunction with the Medical Examiner's Office charged Dearman with Aggravated Child Abuse. He is currently being held on all charges without bond at the Sarasota County Jail. Dearman's history includes an arrest in 2008 for Desertion from the Navy.

The 7-year-old sibling was uninjured and remains in the protective custody of the Department of Children and Family Services. The investigation continues as an official cause of death has yet to be determined by the Medical Examiner's Office.