LIMA — Jurors in the trial of Gabriel Salyers heard two vastly differing jailhouse interviews with the Lima man charged with murder in the April 2018 death of his live-in girlfriend’s young son during the opening day of testimony Wednesday.
In a span of less than 48 hours Salyers told police investigators two versions of the events that left 18-month-old Jaxxon Sullivan limp and lifeless in his mother’s arms and subsequently rushed to a Lima hospital.
Jurors learned the infant was essentially dead upon arrival at St. Rita’s Medical Center on the night of April 1, 2018, but was kept on life support until he died two days later in a Toledo hospital. Injuries ranging from bruising to the head and penis to burns on the boys fingertips were ultimately discovered, with Sullivan’s death attributed to bleeding on the brain, testimony revealed.
Jurors watched more than four hours of videotaped interviews of Salyers as conducted by Lima Police Department detectives. In the first interview, which lasted some two hours, Salyers told investigators that neither he nor the boy’s mother, Shelly Wireman, had caused those injuries.
When informed by detectives that medical personnel had determined the brain trauma suffered by the youngster had occurred within six hours of the time a frantic 911 call was placed by Wireman on the evening of Easter Sunday, Salyers repeatedly denied knowledge of how the boy’s injuries were inflicted.
“Shelly’s a great mom. I know she wouldn’t do that, and I damned sure wouldn’t do that,” he told Detective Sean Neidermire. “We’re good people, man. We’re good parents. Jaxxon is my little man. I’d never hurt that baby,” Salyers said during a police interview on the evening of April 1.
But less than 48 hours after being jailed in connection with Sullivan’s death, Salyers sent word to authorities that he would like to speak with Neidermire again. Detective Steve Stechschulte testified that Salyers, with whom he had a chance encounter in the LPD’s identification area, said, “I know who did this; I want to cooperate.”
Jurors concluded the opening day of testimony by listening to the first half of a four-hour follow-up interview with Salyers during which the defendant said he had witnessed Wireman phycialy abuse the infant on two occasions in the days prior to his death.
“I wanna tell you what I seen,” Salyers told his interviewers. “That day when we woke up, when Shelly was changing (Jaxxon’s) diaper, I saw her flick his penis. And three days earlier I had seen her hit him in his head. He had been fussy, tough to deal with, and she must have got frustrated.”
Salyers said Wireman did not know he witnessed either incident.
But despite his attempt to cast blame for the infant’s death on Wireman, detectives kept up a relentless and aggressive interrogation of the Lima man.
“I think someone lost their temper, and I don’t think she (Wireman) did it,” Stechschulte said during the interview. “You two were the only ones in the house that day and it had to be one of you. You told us the other day that Shelly is a good mom and would never do something like this.”
Salyers admitted he initially had attempted to shield his girlfriend.
“I will do anything I need to do to get out of this jail,” Salyers told detectives on the video. “I love the girl (Wireman), but I can’t sit in (jail) for someone else.”
A jury of seven men and five women was slated to hear the remainder of the second interview with Salyers when the trial resumes Thursday morning. The jury is tentatively expected to get the case by Friday.
Salyers, 32, is charged with aggravated murder and murder, each an unclassified felony; three counts of endangering children, second-degree felonies; one count of fourth-degree felony domestic violence and one misdemeanor charge of possession of drugs related to Sullivan’s death.
Reach J Swygart at 567-242-0464.