Jury indicts pair on murder, abuse charges in 2-year-old's death

Monday, July 23, 2007 at 12:33pm

A Davidson County grand jury has indicted a couple on first-degree murder charges and on multiple counts of aggravated child abuse after a 2-year-old boy in their care died of massive head injuries.

Aja Westbrooks, 21 and her boyfriend, Larry Cook Jr., 19, both of 544 S. 6th St., were arrested in March on aggravated child abuse and neglect charges after Westbrooks’ son, Anthony Westbrooks, was taken to the hospital with massive head injuries, a rib fracture and multiple bruises of different ages all over his body.

After lingering in a coma for two days, doctors at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University pronounced the 31-month-old brain dead.

Police said Westbrooks originally told them that her child had fallen down the stairs. But the medical examiner’s office found his injuries to be inconsistent with that explanation.

Police also said that when they interviewed Cook following his arrest, he told multiple and inconsistent stories about how the child had sustained his injuries.

Cook, though, did eventually tell a Metro Police detective that he believed Westbrooks was responsible for abusing her son.

That led police to learn that Westbrooks had been the subject of an October 2004 child abuse investigation by the state Department of Children’s Services (DCS).

At that time, DCS was called in to investigate the circumstances of an injury to Anthony Westbrooks’ knee. The result of that investigation, DCS officials have said, was a Juvenile Court order to have the child removed from the custody of his mother and temporarily placed with his maternal grandmother.

In May of 2005, however, Westbrooks successfully petitioned the Juvenile Court to have the child returned to her.

Westbrooks and Cook have remained in jail since their arrests.

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