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Layton man charged with aggravated murder in 2-year-old boy's death

FARMINGTON — A Layton man was charged with aggravated murder Friday in the disturbing abuse death of his girlfriend's 2-year-old boy.

Joshua Schoenenberger, 34, was charged in 2nd District Court with aggravated murder, a capital offense, and child abuse intentionally inflicting serious injury, a second-degree felony. The boy's mother, Jasmine Bridgeman, 23, of Layton, was charged with obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony.

On May 9, the couple took an unresponsive James "JJ" Sieger Jr. to Davis Hospital and Medical Center claiming he was found face down in the bathtub after being left unattended. But doctors found no evidence of fluid in the boy's lungs, according to charging documents.

JJ was flown to Primary Children's Hospital where he died two days later.

"Doctors concluded that the boy’s injuries were consistent with blunt force trauma to the boy’s abdomen," the charges state.

Schoenberger eventually told investigators he became upset with JJ in the shower "and began to squeeze the boy on his abdomen. He then said that he dropped the boy on the floor outside the bathtub and accidentally stepped on the boy’s stomach," according to the charges.

He later admitted to intentionally stepping on JJ's stomach but claimed he did not mean to hurt him, according to police.

From May 9 until May 13, Bridgeman was interviewed several times by police and she "gave the officers false information regarding material aspects of the investigation," charging documents state.

Police said Bridgeman lied several times about what had happened at the Layton home, 224 E. 1450 North, before allegedly telling detectives that Schoenenberger had become upset with James over potty training, according to a Davis County Jail report.

The toddler had messed his diaper and Schoenenberger "smeared the poop from the diaper in (the boy's) face," police wrote.

Later, when questioned by police, Schoenenberger told detectives that he was in the bathroom holding JJ by the waist, talking to him face-to-face about potty training, when the boy urinated on him and defecated in the tub. Schoenenberger reacted by squeezing JJ's stomach tightly, then dropped the boy "outside of the tub, onto the tile floor, from eye level," the report states, and then stepped on the boy's stomach "out of frustration with how (he) treats his home."

Bridgeman told police that Schoenenberger asked her to lie to investigators about what happened as they drove to the hospital, police said.

JJ's father, James Sieger, who lives in Georgia, flew to Utah in time to say goodbye to his son and take him off life support.

The Sieger family says Bridgeman is still legally married to James Sieger. They say Bridgeman took JJ and ran off about five months ago. The family said it learned she was in Utah just prior to JJ's death. James Sieger retained custody of his 5-month-old daughter, whom Bridgeman also allegedly took, after arriving in Utah.

An initial court hearing for both defendants is set for June 1.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings declined to say Friday whether his office will seek the death penalty against Schoenenberger. Prosecutors have 60 days after an arraignment to make such a decision.

Schoenenberger has been in custody ever since the incident as prosecutors prepared to to file charges in the difficult case that is similar to another high-profile child murder case.

Ethan Stacy, 4, died in 2010, also in Layton, shortly after arriving in Utah under court order from West Virginia despite the protests of his biological father. Ethan was abused almost from the day he arrived in Utah. Both Stephanie and Nathan Sloop, Ethan's mother's and her new husband, avoided potential death penalty sentences by accepting plea deals.

Three days after JJ was taken to the hospital, the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole set the original parole hearings for both Sloops in May of 2055. Stephanie Sloop will be 72 and Nathan Sloop will be 76 when they will have their first opportunity to ask for parole. There is no guarantee that either will be granted parole at that time.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.comTwitter: DNewsCrimeTeam