Journey Ann Cowart was pronounced dead on Jan. 24 at Cartersville Medical Center after her mother, Brandy Ann Boyd, and Austin Payne carried to her to the emergency room because she was not breathing.
“Journey was declared dead by a doctor shortly after lifesaving efforts failed in the emergency room. Investigators responded and began to investigate the death of the child. Some injuries, such as bruises, were seen by the investigators that evening,” Bartow County Sheriff Clark Millsap said Monday in a press conference. “On Jan. 23, 2014, the medical examiner’s office of the [Georgia Bureau of Investigation] conducted an autopsy of the child. Based on the autopsy uncovering numerous injuries of abuse all over the child’s body, charges were brought against Brandy Ann Boyd and Austin Levi Payne of cruelty to children and aggravated battery.
“Upon further testimony from the medical examiner as she continued her autopsy throughout the week, charges have now been upgraded to one count of felony murder on Miss Boyd and one count of felony murder against Mr. Payne.”
The death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner. Bartow County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Office Sgt. Jonathan Rogers said a cause of death will not be determined until the examination is complete, which could take several more weeks as the ME examines tissue taken from the body.
“... Some of the injuries that occurred were a fractured skull, blunt force trauma to the stomach. The child had healed ribs that had previously been broken, and she also had a femur that had been cracked and had already healed,” Millsap said. “The medical examiner said this appears to her to be the worst she has ever seen. It’s a systematic six to seven months worth of abuse to this young child, and we’re going forward with the felony murder child.
“It’s very heartbreaking for the child. She was a little, blonde-haired girl. I’ve been doing this for 29 years and there’s nothing that sits worse than a child abuse or a child molestation case. I love what I do, but that’s the part that makes it hard, especially this one little child. This little girl has no more chances. She’s out. Rest in peace.”
He said additional charges could follow once the autopsy is complete.
Authorities said there were no red flags in the case, with the death being the “first-ever encounter.” Although both Boyd and Payne previously had been arrested, no charges of the same nature were reported.
Payne and Boyd had been in a relationship for seven to eight months and the abuse had been going on for almost the entirety of the relationship, Millsap said.
The body of Journey Cowart’s father, Blake Cowart, was removed from the Etowah River in April 2013 after he was reported missing by Boyd from their Kingston home. Millsap said Monday that there was no foul play suspected in Blake Cowart’s death in light of the infant’s death.
Boyd’s other child, a 5-year-old boy, was removed from his current residence by the Division of Family and Children Services. There was no history of abuse with the boy, Millsap said.
Once autopsy results are in, Millsap said authorities will consult with the District Attorney’s office about the possibility of malice murder charges. Boyd and Payne were denied bond and bound over to superior court. Millsap said he believes the pair will be held until the trial.
— Jessica Loeding contributed to this report.