Longform

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

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Jason had to be transported to Children's Hospital in Denver — but since his parents were now under suspicion, they couldn't ride in the ambulance. They drove down to Children's, where they got the news that Jason's head injuries were too severe to survive. Their baby was going to die.

Since Molly and Alex were both child-abuse suspects, they couldn't stay with him; Boulder County Human Services appointed a legal guardian to oversee his care. That night, the couple was allowed just a few minutes in his room. Jason seemed to be drifting in and out of consciousness, his little body hooked up to a tangle of tubes. "It was like his last waking hours, and they did not let a family member stay," Molly says, gulping back tears. "He spent his last conscious moments alone."

Over the next few days, Molly and Alex fought to get access to Jason. McCormick always seemed to be there. He told them to be wary of talking to police or social workers, told them they should be asking about things like brittle-bone disease and eggshell-baby condition. "I looked to him to defend me," Molly says. "I looked to him for advice."

Finally, Human Services relented: Molly and Alex could have unlimited time with their son. And not long after that, they had to help make the most difficult of decisions: whether to remove life support for the twelve-week-old child. "'Hard' doesn't even describe it," Molly says. "I had to be a parent, so I had to do what was the best thing. I had this belief for a few days that where there is life, there is hope. But by that point, there wasn't any life; it was just machines."

On March 1, those machines were turned off. As the couple held their son, the doctors said that Jason would likely pass away within twenty minutes. But he lived for another 48 hours — and all the while, Molly and Alex never put him down.

Then, says Molly, hardly able to utter the words, "He died in my arms on March 3, 2006."

******

As the media converged — reporters seeking out friends and neighbors, a Fox News van parked outside of Molly's childhood home — the bereaved parents escaped to Alex's sister's house in Golden. "I needed some privacy," says Molly. "I needed some time to breathe."

None of it made sense to her. Jason would never taste his first bite of solid food, would never learn to crawl or walk. As she hiked through the mountains, she wondered if she'd done something terribly wrong, if her tough pregnancy was to blame, if Jason had exhibited some telltale warning sign she'd missed. But her mind always drew a blank.

The Midyette family closed in tight around her and Alex, and drew in Molly's parents, too. No one talked to the media, no one talked to the police. At one point, according to a motion later filed on Molly's behalf, J. told Molly's parents "that if there was any way to buy off [Boulder District Attorney] Mary Lacy, he would do it."

As part of the damage control, Molly's time sheets at work disappeared, she says. And while the couple was spending the month in Golden, their Louisville house was quietly emptied and sold, and a replacement was purchased in Erie. When Molly and Alex had left for the doctor's office with Jason on February 24, they had no idea they would never again return home.

A few days after Jason was taken to Children's, McCormick had told Molly she'd have to get her own lawyer in case there were criminal charges; he would be representing Alex. But he had the perfect attorney in mind for her, he said: Craig Truman, a friend who was one of the most well-known criminal-defense lawyers in Denver. Still, everyone continued to act as though McCormick was in charge of all the legal strategies — including Molly. "I still saw him as my lawyer," she says. "He acted as a lawyer to everybody." When medical experts began suggesting that Jason's death was a homicide, McCormick was the one who refuted the evidence in the press. Molly often acted like McCormick's unofficial paralegal, she says, providing documents or serving as an intermediary between McCormick and Alex, who sometimes didn't want to talk about the case. Often, McCormick called Molly on her own cell phone to talk. She much preferred talking to him than Truman. "He was very standoffish," she says of the latter. "I never felt like I could really call Craig and ask him questions the way I could with Paul."

And in the fall of 2006, when a grand jury was finally convened to look into Jason's death, McCormick "called potential witnesses and 'advised' them they had the right to counsel and volunteered to help them find counsel," according to the motion filed four years later on Molly's behalf.

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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