TUPELO • A Tupelo man is now facing the death penalty after a 6-year-old boy died Saturday in an Arkansas children’s hospital.
Joshua Oakley, 29, of 2646 Arlington St., Tupelo, was arrested Nov. 13 and initially charged with felony child abuse after his girlfriend’s son was brought to the emergency room in Tupelo with life-threatening injuries.
Following the Nov. 30 death of Camden Blair, 6, at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, the charges against Oakley were upgraded to capital murder. Under state law, if convicted of capital murder, the only sentencing options are life without parole or death.
While the charge has been upgraded, it is uncertain when the case will move to the grand jury for a possible indictment.
“It is still early and I haven’t gotten all the facts and details of the case,” said District Attorney John Weddle. “We will be pretty careful to make sure we have all the facts and have talked to everyone before we go to the grand jury.”
The investigation going forward could be delayed. Pulaski County (Arkansas) Coroner Gerone Q. Hobbs will likely order an autopsy. It is uncertain how long that process could take. Investigators must also interview doctors at three separate hospitals in three different states.
Blair was first taken to the North Mississippi Medical Center on Nov. 13. He was quickly transported to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and later sent to Arkansas.
The next Lee County grand jury is set to convene Jan. 5, 2020. If the investigation is not complete, prosecutors will have to wait until the March grand jury to present the case.
Blair was a first-grader at Parkway Elementary School in Tupelo. Classmates wrote tributes Monday and grief counselors were on hand, said Tupelo Public School District communications director Gregg Ellis.
Tupelo police were called to the NMMC emergency room at 5:30 a.m. Nov. 13 for a possible child abuse case. The boy was suffering from life-threatening injuries and those injuries were not accidental. Officials have not released any information about the location or severity of Blair’s injuries.
Oakley is in a relationship with the victim’s mother and was babysitting at the time of the injuries. He was charged with felony child abuse and booked into the Lee County Jail around 4 p.m. the same day. During his initial appearance in Tupelo Municipal Court, he was ordered held without bond.
With the new capital murder charge, Oakley will most likely be held without bond until the case goes to trial.