ATHENS, Texas (KETK) – An Athens woman was arrested on Wednesday for injury to a child after the 2022 death of her 10-year-old autistic non-verbal stepson.
According to her arrest warrant, Shonna Pickle, 38, called 911 after finding her stepson Jessie unresponsive on Dec. 26, 2022. He was later pronounced dead at the emergency room and a doctor reported to see bruising on his throat and lower abdomen that were inconsistent with CPR, and could be caused by abuse.
A criminal investigator with the sheriff’s office then spoke with multiple witnesses including a respite caregiver who, according to the warrant, said she had concerns about Jessie’s treatment after observing Shonna “hit him several times with her hand.”
The warrant said while the investigator interviewed Jessie’s father, he said Shonna has been in the kid’s life for seven years, and is responsible for the majority of their care because he is out of town working.
He said he watched the cameras while working nights and would call Shonna if he noticed anything. According to the warrant, on Dec. 26, 2022 he saw Jessie out of bed on the floor so he asked Shonna to check on him.
The warrant said the investigator watched the video recording from that morning and saw Shonna yell at Jessie to go to bed while he was visibly coughing, gagging and asking for a drink. Shonna could be heard telling Jessie “I am not giving you anything,” according to the warrant, before she put him in his room and “locked him in the room as she does every night with all the children.”
The warrant said Jessie could be seen in the video footage coughing blood onto his bed and can be heard grunting and moaning. Jessie is observed to be in pain, coughing up blood and attempting to leave his room for hours before a voice the warrant said sounds like Shonna’s said “you not gonna be ugly.”
“Shonna told [the investigator] she gave the children breakfast and Jessie threw up and there was blood in the vomit but not a lot,” the warrant said. “She watched Jessie vomit several times but he was ok according to her.”
According to the warrant, Shonna later told investigators she no longer has custody of four of her children due to physical abuse.
The investigator found concerns of medical neglect while reviewing Jessie’s autopsy in April 2023 that an infection contributed to his death and stated “I learned that his needs were neglected and that neglect contributed to his death.”
The warrant said the investigator looked into Jessie’s records at the hospital and found that Shonna had taken Jessie to the hospital twice in 2020. In April 2020, Jessie was hospitalized for dehydration, an infection and there was an unexplained burn on the top of his foot.
“When questioned about Jessie’s frequent sickness by hospital staff, Shonna denied making him sick and continued giving explanations for the illness,” the warrant said. “During the hospital stay, Jessie gained six pounds. This trend continued through the time that Shonna was in care, custody and control of Jessie with seven doctors across seven facilities noting abnormalities in the home treatment being provided to the child.”
Shonna was arrested for injury to a child, and her bond has been set at $500,000.