Longform

Molly Midyette, a mother sentenced to sixteen years for the death of her son, speaks out

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That fall, Molly started working at Pearl Street Mall Properties, on the family payroll, just like the wives of Alex's two brothers and just about everyone else in the extended Midyette clan. She earned significantly more than she had at her old job, doing office work at a local development firm, but having to deal with her father-in-law made her wonder if it was worth it. Once, when a toilet in the women's room started leaking, J. escorted his three daughters-in-law into the bathroom so that he could teach them how to properly flush, she says.

To make matters worse, Molly's pregnancy was a nightmare. She was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, a dangerous complication involving high blood pressure, and gained a lot of weight. By the time Jason Jay Midyette was born on December 17, 2005, at Boulder Community Hospital, slightly premature, she was emotionally and physically drained.

Still, it felt good to bring Jason home on Christmas Eve, to introduce him to their house in Louisville and their huge Labrador, Poncho. "It was the greatest day of my life," she remembers. "It was a really happy time for all of us." At the hospital, Jason had been flagged for failing to thrive, but now he started putting on weight. At his weekly wellness checks, the pediatrician found nothing to be concerned about.

That made the decision that Molly would go back to work just six weeks after giving birth slightly easier to swallow. She wasn't thrilled with the arrangement, Molly says now, but Alex and his parents argued that it made sense. Since Alex wasn't working much anyway, he could be a stay-at-home dad while Molly worked for J. Alex was a proud father who loved to give Jason baths and talk about how he'd teach his son to play golf, one of Alex's passions. And if at times he was a bit rough with Jason, bouncing him around more forcefully than she liked, the baby still seemed to be in good hands.

Molly started getting used to leaving her son at home, settling into her three-day-a-week work schedule. But late on the morning of February 24, Alex called.

Jason wasn't acting quite right, he said.

Before she'd left for work, Jason had been fussy — and he hadn't gotten better, Alex told Molly. Still, he didn't seem too concerned: He asked if he could go golfing when Molly got home, and wondered if she could connect him with a mutual friend so that he could score some pot.

Molly got home around noon and found Jason strangely lethargic. He'd rest his head on her shoulder, then stiffen up with a jerk. She called the pediatrician's office, and a receptionist scheduled an appointment for 3:30, a few hours away, but said that if the baby got worse, they should go to the ER. Molly put Jason down for a nap — and when she tried to wake him up for the appointment, he couldn't seem to fully wake up.

Alex was acting strange, too, Molly says now. She'd discovered the baby reference book usually kept on a shelf lying on the bed, open to the "D" section. Alex said he'd been looking up digestive issues, but she noticed that the first entry on the page was "Dilated pupils." And as they were getting ready to leave for the doctor's office, she found Alex holding Jason, completely naked, up to the bathroom light. He told her he was checking for a rash.

At the doctor's office, the pediatrician confirmed Molly's worst fears: The soft spot on Jason's head was hard and bulging, suggesting something was very wrong. The family hurried to Boulder Community Hospital's emergency room — where everything quickly spiraled out of control. After running a CT scan, a doctor took Molly and Alex aside and asked who else had been watching the baby. When they replied "Nobody," he told them that Jason had multiple broken bones as well as a skull fracture. The police had been called, he added.

Soon both sets of grandparents arrived, and the situation devolved into recriminations and panicked strategizing. Molly says she asked Alex if he'd accidentally done something, which he adamantly denied; then J. asked Molly if she'd harmed Jason while suffering from postpartum depression. The Midyette family's lawyer showed up: Paul McCormick, who'd also worked for the Bowers family in the past. Molly had once talked with him about pursuing a legal career; now McCormick, too, asked Molly if she'd done something to Jason, she remembers, and instructed her not to talk to the police.

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner