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DA Petitions To Exhume 15-Month-Old Boy's Body

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Posted at 6:00 PM, Aug 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-29 17:21:17-04

Was little Jeffry Kelton Skaggs murdered nearly 15 years ago?

That's what prosecutors want to know.

Now, they're asking a Maury County judge for permission to exhume the little boy's body.

In a petition filed Thursday in Maury County Circuit Court, District Attorney General Brent Cooper argued that a second autopsy is needed to see if Skaggs' severe head injuries were the result of child abuse. (Read the petition here.)

Our NewsChannel 5 investigation first raised questions years ago about the autopsy of 15-month-old boy's body, which ruled the death an accident.

Skaggs lived inside a mobile home in Maury County with his mother and her boyfriend, and they claimed that the child hit his head when he rolled off the bed.

But experts consulted by NewsChannel 5 Investigates said that didn't make sense, and now a Vanderbilt pediatrics professor agrees.

Dr. Deborah Lowen, director of Vanderbilt's Center for Child Protection and Well-Being, said in a letter attached to the petition that she has "great concerns that this child's death was not the accident it was initially classified as."

"Rather," she added, "the medical and investigative evidence is highly concerning for the child being a victim of child abuse."

Dr. Adele Lewis, associate medical examiner for Davidson County, also supported the petition.

"There is a strong possibility that an exhumation autopsy may provide additional information and insight into the death of this child," Lewis wrote.

"However, even if no previously unidentified injuries are discovered, the location and severity of the trauma already documented in this case are most consistent with child abuse."

The DA, Brent Cooper, declined to speculate about whom he believes may have hurt the child in this case.

Still, he argued that Jeffry deserves justice.

"People that hurt a child, they need to be dealt with because they are dangerous," he recently told NewsChannel 5 Investigates. "If you're willing to hurt someone that's essentially harmless, you deserve to be brought to justice."

Jeffry's mother successfully fought off another effort shortly after his death to exhume the body.

Her attorney, Jason Whatley, told NewsChannel 5 that they have not yet decided whether or not they will go along with the DA's request.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is assisting prosecutors on the case.

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