Second-degree murder charges have been dropped against a West Plains related to the death of his 18-month-old stepdaughter three years ago.

The Missouri attorney general’s office requested that Judge Max Price dismiss the charges against Joseph Frye because of “inconsistent information from the medical examiner.”

Frye, who was the only adult in the home when the little girl died, was charged with killing Jaycee Hardin about a month after the toddler died in May 2006.

The medical examiner ruled that Jaycee died from “blunt force trauma to the abdomen resulting in a tear to the small intestine,’’ the detective wrote. The doctor thinks the child lost consciousness within one or two hours of being injured and died soon afterwards.


The doctor believes little Jaycee lost consciousness within one or two hours of being injured and died soon afterwards.

A West Plains Police detective wrote in court documents filed with the charge that Frye told him Jaycee vomited twice a few hours before her death, was wheezing and “appeared lethargic, sluggish and show, but not enough to worry him.”

An autopsy performed by a private forensics doctor in Springfield found the preliminary cause of Jaycee's death was “blunt force trauma to the abdomen resulting in a tear to the small intestine,’’ the detective wrote. The doctor thinks the child lost consciousness within one or two hours of being injured and died soon afterwards.

Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Bock told Judge Price that she couldn't seek any additional expert opinions because key tissue samples from the victim were not preserved in 2006 by the Medical Examiner's Office for testing, an issue that has since been addressed with the medical examiner in the strongest terms.

The medical examiner testified at Frye's preliminary hearing that their were old and new bruises that covered the toddlers body.

Jaycee’s mother doesn't believe her husband killed her daughter.

Bock said her office has received inconsistent information from the medical examiner who has overseen this case since May 2006. She told the Judge Price that she informed Mr. Frye's attorney as required by law.

The Missouri attorney generals office was in charge of the case for the state and because the Howell County prosecuting attorney knows Frye's family.

Because the dismissal of charges is “without prejudice”, the decision leaves open the possibility that charges could be refiled if additional evidence is found.

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Edited news release from the attorney general’s office on Friday:

Charges against Joseph Frye were dismissed on Friday. Frye was charged in 2006 with second-degree murder for inflicting blunt force trauma on his stepdaughter, Jaycee Hardin, on May 10, 2006.

The case was originally filed by Howell County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Hutchings and then referred to the Attorney Generals office due to a conflict of interest.

A trial date was set for January 2009 but it was continued at the prosecutor’s request when new information was discovered by the prosecutor regarding the autopsy.

In a statement before Special Judge Max Price on Friday, Elizabeth Bock, an assistant attorney general, said her office had received inconsistent information from the medical examiner who has overseen this case since May 2006. She told the judge that she gave this information to the defendant’s attorney as required by law.

Bock also said this information was not available to the Howell County prosecuting attorney when the charges were filed, nor was it available to the law enforcement officers who investigated this case in 2006.

Bock told the judge that she couldn't seek an additional expert opinion because key tissue samples from the victim were not preserved in 2006 by the Medical Examiner's Office for testing, an issue that has since been addressed with the medical examiner in the strongest terms.

Bock told the judge that "the injuries sustained by this child resulting in her death was a tragedy that warrants investigation but, when it happened, whether it was intentional or accidental, and by whom it was caused cannot be determined at this time.

Due to the medical examiner’s failure to preserve this important evidence, it is impossible for the state to be able to prove the cause of death. The lack of this evidence prevents the state from taking any further action in this proceeding at this time.”

Bock told the judge that this decision was being made only after consultation with members of the victim's family and in the interests of justice.

Because the dismissal of charges is “without prejudice”, the decision leaves open the possibility of refiling this matter at a later date if more evidence is found.

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