VIENNA, Ga. (WALB) – WALB News 10 is investigating new information uncovered regarding the mother of 4-year-old Jayceion Mathis, 27-year-old Keara Cotton, who has been charged with his murder.
About the case:
Mathis’s remains were identified in March after they were found in a field in Crisp County. For months, Mathis had been missing by members of his family. When he was reported missing, family members told police that Cotton was violent.
Cotton was charged with murder, concealment of a death and cruelty to children.
WALB News 10 has gone through hundreds of documents on the case. These documents showed that the DFCS had difficulty confirming the abuse reported at the house.
Mathis’ death and subsequent charges against his mother came years after DFCS began working on the case.
What DFCS found before Mathis died
A “contact story log” recently released by the Department of Health Services includes dozens of reports from DFCS case managers and police.
The documents, from 2017, gave more information about the conditions of the house and the complaints reported before Mathis died.
DFCS first got involved while Jayceion was still in the womb. Her mother tested positive for drugs twice while pregnant.
Thirteen days after Mathis was born, doctors say he has lost almost two pounds. At six months, he weighed 10 pounds. On a visit to the home three years later, the social worker estimated that he weighed only 15 to 20 pounds.
He was then referred to an intervention program called “Babies Can’t Wait”. It helps children with developmental delays.
It became apparent to investigators that there was something else going on in the house.
In August 2020, a social worker said Mathis was given one meal a day to “prevent him from having a bowel movement.”
The social worker wrote that Mathis had been observed as “non-verbal”, still wearing a diaper and not bathing when he was 3 years old. They also observed that there were no beds or light bulbs so the children “don’t turn on the lights at night”.
Cotton and Mathis’ father was also observed to get upset when asking for food or drink. They would have made him sit facing the wall as a form of discipline.
There have been several reports over the years.
Some showed improved conditions at home. Others have been negligent.
The report said there were “physical fights all the time” in the house.
Reports say someone saw Mathis hiding and crying because he was scared and couldn’t defend himself. This name has been removed from the documents.
Reports claim that Jayceon likely died between late October and mid-November 2021. His sister said she hadn’t seen her brother since Halloween. She told social workers that ‘the last time mum choked her he cried but didn’t make a sound’.
Cotton’s then-boyfriend said he had been talking to her since early November and had never seen Jayceion.
A social worker came to the home to schedule an in-person visit on December 2, but there was no response.
Documents show DFCS and police attempted to contact Cotton again on January 20, 2022, as she still had not complied with checks.
Police say Cotton texted her mother asking if she could pick up her 8-year-old from school and promised she would bring Jayceion, but did not follow through.
Jayceion’s grandmother told DFCS social workers that she “hopes it’s not too late” and that she hadn’t seen Jayceion in months. She added that Keara had no working water and had deactivated her DFCS page.
She then reported that an undisclosed person said Keara would choke Jayceion until he could barely breathe. A verification process was going on for the grandmother to take the children. A missing child alert was not issued until January 20.
Documents show the house was visited dozens of times by DFCS – but there was no effort to get Mathis out of the house or hold Cotton accountable.
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