James Dantzler

James Dantzler

Man Faces Murder Charge In Toddler's Death

Man Says Wrestling Led To Boy's Injuries

POSTED: 2:21 pm EST December 11, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A man is expected to be charged with murder after his girlfriend's son died at an Indianapolis hospital.

Bloomington police said Christopher Bridgewater, 27, told officers that he struck James Dantzler, 3, several times while wrestling with the boy.

The boy was found unresponsive in his home Thursday and was taken by medical helicopter to Riley Hospital for Children, where he later died.

Dantzler's mother, Jessica Merryman, 30, was arrested on a charge of neglect of a dependent.

Police said Dantzler suffered numerous bruises to his neck, forehead, abdomen, chest and inside his ears.

A murder charge against Bridgewater is expected to be filed on Monday.


Jessica Merryman, 30, had been jailed in lieu of half a million dollars bond since the death of her son, James Dantzler. Merryman’s boyfriend, 27-year-old Christopher Bridgewaters, is being held in jail without bond on a charge of murder. Police allege he inflicted the injuries that resulted in the child’s death. He faces life in prison without parole.

On Dec. 15, Diekhoff denied Merryman’s request to be released so she could bury her son. Six days later, Monroe Circuit Judge Marc Kellams upheld the high bond amount and sent Merryman back to her cell.

Today, appearing with Chapman, a distraught Merryman asked Diekhoff once again to reduce her bail. This time, the judge agreed to do so. “What I’m willing to do, Mr. Chapman, is to reduce it to what an A felony bond would be since she has no previous record,” she said. Merryman’s bail is now in line with the board of judges’ bond schedule: $50,000 surety plus $1,000 cash.

Merryman’s family would have to come up with $6,000 — $5,000 for a bail bondsman plus the cash bond. She was still in jail this afternoon.

Police reported that James Dantzler had more than 50 bruises over his chest and abdomen, under his chin and on his forehead. An autopsy showed the child died from internal bleeding in his abdomen and brain.

She reportedly told police James was afraid of Bridgewaters and begged not to be left alone with him, but she left the toddler in his care anyway. She called an ambulance the afternoon of Dec. 10 when she came home and realized the boy was not breathing. He died the next day at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.


December 18, 2009

Allen Dantzler weeps for his three-year-old son James, a three-year old murdered in Bloomington. While his tears fall, Dantzler vows to attend every hearing to seek justice for his son.

"If he was too much for you, why you didn't call me and give him to me?" said Dantzler, referring to the mother of his son Jessica Merryman. Merryman now sits in jail.

"He could have been here, he would have been OK. He would have been at home and safe," he tells Fox 59 News. Merryman's boyfriend, Chris Bridgewaters, is charged with brutally beating James to death.

Reports say James had more than 50 bruises on his body with extensive internal bleeding in his head and abdomen. His mother, Jessica, is charged with neglect of a dependent resulting in death. If convicted, she could face more than 20 years in jail, but for Allen Dantzler, that's not enough. He feels she should face stiffer charges.

"I think what he got, should be the same thing she should get," said Allen. "She let it happen."

In fact, Police say Merryman was at the house and called 911 when police responded and found James not breathing at her home. She said her boyfriend Bridgewaters was roughhousing with James.

Allen Dantzler had to make the painful decision to take his son off life support last Friday. Doctors told him his son's heart would eventually give out.

"I miss him. I miss him so much. He was a happy little guy real outgoing he loved people."

Merryman had reportedly asked to get out of jail to attend her son's funeral, but Allen Dantzler said she was lying because no service had been scheduled. This angered him along with the fact she's requesting a bond reduction (though she already only has to come up with $1000 for her current $500,000 surety).

Dantzler vows to attend every hearing for both charged in his son's death. "I'll be there," he said. "I'll be doing it for him. For James."

See Facebook page created for dear James here.


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