PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A teenager accused of suffocating his 4-month-old son will stand trial.
The magistrate judge said the commonwealth “just barely passed” its required burden of proof during the preliminary hearing in the homicide case against 17-year-old De-John Johnson. The McKeesport teen is being tried as an adult. Police allege that he killed his 4-month-old son, Isaiah Brooks-Leonard.
Things got really interesting when Johnson’s attorney, Blaine Jones, called Johnson’s mother, Teonita Askew, as a witness and she asserted her Fifth Amendment privilege and would not answer any questions. It is unclear whether Askew realized she was being called as a witness by her son’s attorney and not by the prosecutor.
“I don’t think so, I don’t think so. I think it all happened so fast and the government’s case was pretty quick in my opinion,” said Johnson’s attorney Blaine Jones.
Askew was subpoenaed by the Commonwealth and brought her own lawyer to her son’s preliminary hearing.
“She may have been under the assumption — and I am speculating — that it was the government calling her,” said Jones.
Askew’s attorney told the judge she was invoking her Fifth Amendment privilege and refused to testify.
“She has to protect herself. This is a unique case. It’s a tough case,” said Jones.
Investigators said Johnson was living with Askew on Banker Street in McKeesport when his son, baby Isaiah came to stay with them the weekend of February 4, 2017. Police said baby Isaiah was alone with Johnson in his third-floor bedroom when he became unresponsive on February 6, 2017.
According to the Medical Examiner, the infant died from asphyxiation due to smothering. Detectives said that Askew told them her 8-year-old son was holding baby Isaiah that weekend and dropped him.
Baby Isaiah’s mother is 16 years old and was not living with Johnson. She came to court wearing a t-shirt with a picture of her and baby Isaiah that said rest in peace.
Johnson is being held at the Allegheny County Jail. He will have his formal arraignment on Aug. 24. His attorney is hoping to get him out of jail before then.