The arrest of a North Logan man on suspicion of shaking his infant son to death has stirred local memories of another baby death by the same means.
In 1986, three-month-old Steven Roy James was originally reported kidnapped by his father, Steven Ray James, and the news set off a massive search for the child. But the father’s story unraveled when the child’s body was found by duck hunters in the marsh west of Logan, wrapped in a blanket and painter’s drop cloth and weighted down with rocks. The drop cloth matched others found in James’ home, and he was charged with murder.
James stuck by his story, but a jury didn’t buy it. In 1989 he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
But that wasn’t the last Cache Valley would hear Steven Ray James. In the early 1990s, James won an appeal that went all the way to the Utah Supreme Court, and a retrial was ordered.
Then a shocking thing happened. As the new trial was about to begin, James confessed to the killing, telling a story of how he had shaken the baby out of frustration with its incessant crying. When he discovered the baby had died, he panicked and disposed of the body, then concocted the kidnapping story to tell his wife and police.
Seven years of stonewalling and court motions ended with James’ guilty plea on charges of manslaughter and tampering with evidence. The maneuver got him out of life in prison, and he was resentenced to two consecutive 1-to-15 year terms in the state prison.
James has been incarcerated now for 23 years — 16 since his second sentencing. In a phone call to the prison at Draper this week, The Herald Journal learned he is due for a parole hearing on Oct. 26 of 2010.