Dad, girlfriend arrested in son's Christmas Eve death

- A man and his girlfriend are behind bars following the death of a 6-year-old boy this past Christmas Eve.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office says it happened at a home in Englewood, where 31-year-old James Dearman and his girlfriend, 22-year-old Ashley Cole, were playing video games that night.

According deputies, Dearman’s 6-year-old son and his 7-year-old sibling were in the room, and had been told to stand with their faces to the wall. But things turned violent when the youngest turned around to look at the television.

Investigators say Dearman got angry and forced his son to lie on the couch, on his side with the cushions covering his mouth.

"He then pinned his son against that part of the couch using his body weight and pressed against him. The child repeatedly told him he couldn't breathe and eventually became unconscious," said Captain John Walsh of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies say after his son passed out, Dearman and Cole went to smoke a cigarette in the garage before they called for help.

Dearman reportedly told first responders that his son was unconscious and had stopped breathing. The boy was pronounced dead at the hospital, where they also spotted bruising on his back.

Investigators arrested Dearman the following Monday, December 28, for outstanding animal cruelty and damage to property warrants out of Georgia. He was later charged with aggravated child abuse, which was then upgraded to aggravated manslaughter of a child on New Year’s Eve.

Deputies arrested Dearman’s girlfriend, Cole, on Monday, January 4, after investigators learned she may have helped hold the boy down during the incident. She’s been charged with principal to aggravated manslaughter of a child.

They are each being held on a $1,000,000 bond.

The sheriff's office says the 7-year-old sibling was uninjured, and is now in the protective custody of the Department of Children and Family Services. 

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