SHELBY TOWNSHIP (WWJ) – The mother of a two-year-old boy who was found dead after he was left strapped into a baby seat in van earlier this month has been arraigned on second degree murder charges.

Choking back tears, 21-year-old, Audrionna Rhoades was arraigned via video on charges of second degree murder and first degree child abuse in connection with the death of her 2-year-old son James Nelson on September 3.

Rhoades pleaded not guilty.

James Nelson.

James Nelson.

Rhodes’ grandmother, Mary, told WWJ’s Marie Osborne that she doesn’t believe her granddaughter was responsible for the death “The baby was the light of our lives – we all adored him – his mother adored him,” said … “She went to work, she was at work, she had a baby sister.”

“She’s a good mother,” said her grandmother. “She was working – going to Oakland College, I mean this girl was not somebody who was out running the streets.”

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith says Rhoades has given various stories about what happened that day but admits that she never called from work to check on her son.

“The cause of death was cardio-respiratory arrest – when he was taken to the hospital he had a core body temperature of 108 (degrees),” said Smith.

Mary said her granddaughter told her that James was left in the care of a babysitter and that she did not put James in that car seat in the van where he was found.

“There have been so many things said … all I know is my granddaughter looked me in the eye and said I did not put my baby in that car,” said her grandmother.

Prosecutors believe that Rhoades put the toddler in the van and then took another car to work. The boy was in the hot van for over nine hours and died – shortly after being discovered in the van.

Rhodes’ bond was set at $500,000 and faces life in prison if convicted.


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