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

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Alex was dealing with Jason's loss very differently than Molly was. He refused to see a grief counselor and would go out with friends, drinking and smoking pot, even doing cocaine. Molly says she'd known he was into that when they met, but she thought he'd quit when she got pregnant. Still, Molly says she never seriously questioned Alex, never wondered whether something had happened when Jason was in his care. She believed the rationale their lawyers were working on putting forward as a legal defense: Jason must have had a medical condition, one that ravaged his body from within. "I feel like my law degree worked against me," she says now. "It was so easy for me to see both sides of it."

That changed on St. Patrick's Day 2007. Molly, Alex and some friends went to Denver to see the parade and get their minds off of the grand-jury proceedings. In the midst of the outing, Alex said he had to see a friend about scoring some cocaine. While he was gone, one of Alex's friends started talking about Alex's cocaine use, Molly says, telling her that Alex had never stopped doing the drug — not when she was pregnant, not when he was a stay-at-home dad.

That was a turning point, Molly says now. She had her friends take her back to Erie, leaving Alex in Denver. And at home, Molly opened up to her friends. "He's awful to me," she says she told them. "I have to get out of here." As for Jason's death, she said, "I think he did it."

Molly packed some belongings and went to her parents' house, where she voiced similar worries. Then, in a hastily arranged meeting with Truman the next day, she described Alex's drug use, temper and abusive tendencies — plus her suspicions about what had happened to Jason. "I said I wanted to talk to the grand jury," says Molly, "and that I felt like a needed to check myself in somewhere for a break."

But Truman downplayed her concerns, she remembers. She needed to calm down, spend a few weeks at her parents' house, maybe eat some lasagna, her favorite comfort food. His reaction made Molly feel foolish. "I felt like obviously no one believed me, so I must be the one who's wrong," she says. "I thought, how horrible must I be to come up with such horrible theories about Alex?"

So Molly went back to her husband. Her temporary defection had made Alex all the more angry, all the more abusive, she says; he warned her that if she ever talked that way to Truman again, she'd be hurt and her parents would be killed. And Alex wasn't the only one intimidating her. Not long after she returned, Molly says, J. Midyette took her for a drive, during which he reminded her that he owned everything she valued and said that if she ever again accused her son, he would take it all away — her house, her car, her job, even Jason's ashes. "Things just got worse and worse," Molly says now. "I did whatever they wanted, and I went into this total state of operating on subsistence only."

Maybe that's why, when Truman told her a few months before her trial that he'd come to believe there was no medical explanation for Jason's death and that Alex must have been responsible, Molly disagreed. Maybe that's why she never uttered a word to anyone as Alex's behavior steadily worsened, culminating with his slapping her around and sleeping with another woman on the night of their second wedding anniversary, she says now.

And maybe that's why, when Molly's criminal trial finally began in Boulder District Court, Molly did everything Alex and his family asked. Every day, she took part in a post-court debriefing with the Midyettes and McCormick, the specifics of which she was supposed to keep from Truman, she says. The night before she was scheduled to testify, McCormick called her. "Whatever you do, do not say one word about Alex Midyette," he told her, according to a court motion filed years later. "If you even suggest that it's possible Alex had done this, accidentally or purposely causing injury, you're going to go to jail immediately."

During her six hours on the stand, Molly did not say anything against Alex.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, called medical experts who testified that Jason's injuries appeared in various stages of healing, suggesting an eleven-week lifespan scarred by repeated trauma. And Jason's pediatrician testified that, based on Jason's condition when he was brought to her office on February 24, she was surprised at how long the parents had waited to get help.

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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