The Richmond County grand jury has decided that a Hephzibah mother’s negligence in the drowning death of her 2-year-old son last year rises to the level of murder.
Domonique Murray, 37, of Hephzibah, was indicted this week for murder in the second-degree in the death of her son Justus Hyman, who died Oct. 17, 2022. He fell into the pool the day before and was not found for 21 minutes, authorities said.
Murray was originally charged only with cruelty to children in the second-degree. But the grand jury said his mother unlawfully caused his death by “failing to supervise” him at a residence with an in-ground swimming pool. She was also indicted on the child cruelty charge, which accuses her of causing Justus “cruel and excessive physical pain” with the lack of supervision, leading the child to fall into the pool and drown.
The mother was at a friend’s house at 3412 Merrimac Ave. on a Sunday afternoon when her son wandered away outside. Justus was given chest compressions after his mother found him, and he was rushed to Augusta University Medical Center, where he died the next day after being taken off life support.
The mother’s initial arrest for child cruelty sparked outrage among some residents and the woman’s family. Her cousin, Vontrice Coleman, said the arrest was unfair considering it was a freak accident.
Murray had just got married a week before the drowning and returned from her honeymoon the day before. On the day of his death, she was a friend’s house for a party, Coleman said.
The community response sparked Sheriff Richard Roundtree to defend the arrest of Murray in a statement last year. He said the child was unsupervised for 10 minutes and walked around the pool and threw miscellaneous items into the pool. The victim fell in the pool at 3:29 p.m. and was not discovered by his mother until 21 minutes later.