ORANGE, Texas — It’s been almost two months since an Orange County family lost their toddler.
An autopsy report revealed 18-month-old Raydyn Jones suffocated. Sheriff’s investigators named his mother a person of interest, but she has not been charged.
Raydyn died on March 18. Nearly two months later, the family’s pain still feels fresh. Family members continue to wonder what led to baby Raydyn’s death.
September 3, 2017, Raydyn Jones entered the world. His father Casey Jones described holding him for the first time.
“My heart just got so much bigger to be able to have a son to raise,” Jones said.
Also overjoyed? Raydyn’s maternal grandfather.
“That’s my grandson with my name and my birthday. He was called little Ray and I was called little Ray,” Ray Philmon, Raydyn’s Grandfather said.
Eighteen months later, that joy was crushed when Raydyn died.
“It just hurts,” Jones said.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department said on March 18, the baby was found unresponsive by his mother Raychyl Philmon. Philmon brought Raydyn to the closed Baptist Hospital in Orange. He was rushed to CHRISTUS St. Elizabeth, but it was too late.
“Everything I found out just kept making it worse and worse,” Ray Philmon said.
A preliminary autopsy report stated the preliminary cause of death as “manual suffocation in a setting of child abuse.” That report said the preliminary manner of death was homicide.
Authorities named Raydyn’s mother, Raychyl Philmon, as a person of interest in his death. That label typically describes someone investigators are interested in talking to.
As of now, sheriff’s deputies said Raychyl hasn’t been ruled out as a suspect. But she hasn’t been named a suspect either.
In the days following Raydyn’s death, Raychyl was arrested for two unrelated drug charges.
12News asked Ray if Raychyl struggled with drugs in the past.
“Yes ma’am,” Ray Philmon said.
12News looked into Philmon’s past. We found she was convicted of drug charges in 2004 and 2005.
A spokesperson with Child Protective Services told 12News a child was previously removed from Raychyl Philmon’s custody. Family members said that child was Raydyn’s older brother.
“He is still alive but he is on a feeding tube and he has a lot of problems,” Ray Philmon said.
A spokesperson with CPS said the boy has “extensive medical needs.” The spokesperson continued, and said CPS found “reason to believe’ for physical abuse and neglectful supervision of the child.” The boy was removed from the home but no criminal charges were filed.
The boy is now almost four and CPS said the long term plan is for the boy to be adopted.
Two babies; one seriously injured and another one dead; it’s left this family desperate for answers.
“Just why, it makes no sense,” Kilgore said.
“I mean I don’t know what is taking so long,” Jones said.
Family members think about happier times.
“I remember walking and holding his hands with his feet on mine learning to walk around the yard,” Kilgore said.
A memorial stands outside of Ray Philmon’s home, paying tribute to a young life taken to soon.
“I know when I go, me and him are going to start right of where we left off. I know I am going to Heaven and I know he is in Heaven since it happened,” Ray Philmon said.
Ray Philmon tells me he went to visit his daughter in jail, but she turned him away.
12News heard from Raydyn’s maternal grandmother, Lauri Philmon.
She declined to be interviewed but said in a statement, “the wonderful Lead Detective, the awesome DA Special Investigator and a Psychiatrist have all been working with Raychyl since the day she was taken into custody. Unless you have spoken to, and gotten a statement from, one of those people you have absolutely no clue what the truth even is.”
A spokesperson with the Sheriff’s Office would only tell 12News this is an active investigation.