A Forsyth County judge has allowed prosecutors to pursue the death penalty against a Clemmons man accused of killing a 1-year-old girl.
Jesse Wayne Perkins, 24, of Carrousel Drive in Clemmons, faces a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Carolina Rose Dodd. Carolina, the daughter of Perkins' girlfriend, died on Aug. 22, 2018. According to a death certificate, Carolina died from asphyxia from being smothered. The mother's name was not listed on the court documents.
Under state law, prosecutors have to choose among 11 aggravating circumstances in order to pursue the death penalty.
In court Thursday, Assistant District Attorney James Dornfried said the aggravating circumstance was that Dodd's death was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel. Dornfried said Perkins gave a statement to law-enforcement in which he admitted to smothering Carolina. Perkins also told investigators that Carolina resisted and struggled while he was smothering her, according to Dornfried.
According to an autopsy report, Carolina had spots near her eyes, nose and mouth that indicated bleeding. She also had blunt-force injuries, including contusions and abrasions, on her head, neck, chest, abdomen, one of her arms and her legs.
The autopsy report said Perkins placed Carolina face down in a portable playpen at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 22, 2018. Carolina's mother later found the girl unresponsive and face down. EMS first-responders were called, and they moved Carolina to the floor and tried to resuscitate her. Carolina was cold to the touch and rigor mortis had set in, so resuscitative efforts ended, the autopsy report said.
The autopsy report, citing medical records, said Carolina was born with no prenatal or delivery complications but did have a history of eczema.
Her vaccinations were up to date, the report said, but doctors had noted problems during visits.
On Jan. 31, 2018, during a 9-month evaluation, doctors found an uncleaned open wound on her left big toe. Doctors did not know what caused the wound and were concerned about neglect. Forsyth County Child Protective Services was called. A skeletal study was done on Carolina that found nothing unusual.
Carolina returned for a follow-up evaluation on March 22, and the "pediatrician had concerns for the decedent's safety and called CPS to voice her concerns," according to the autopsy report.
Carolina went to the emergency room on Aug. 14, "for evaluation of possible sexual abuse after being in the car of someone who lived with a sex offender." The autopsy report does not say whether any sexual abuse was confirmed.
The report also said that Carolina fell down two to three carpeted steps while she was in Perkins' care. The Forsyth County Department of Social Services was alerted after "seeing bruising and recommended that the decedent get evaluated."
Four days later, on Aug. 18, Carolina was taken to a clinic for "facial bruising" that was a concern because there was a possible hand print. The autopsy report said it was recommended that Carolina stay with her mother until DSS finished the evaluation. The report doesn't say whether DSS put any restrictions on Perkins caring for Carolina.
Perkins is being held in the Forsyth County Jail with no bond allowed. His next court date is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 7. No trial date has been set.