Arkansas family outraged after 8-year-old was burned on 80 percent of body at white playmate’s home with no one seeking help

An Arkansas family is demanding answers and accountability after an 8-year-old boy suffered severe burns.

Jayceon Charles was staying with a friend in Warren, Arkansas in August, preparing to go to Magic Springs the next day. However, according to his family, he left the house with 80 percent of his body burned. Jayceon and his friend were cooking hot dogs when the fire broke out. Nobody at the friend’s house called or reported the incident. His family believes Jayceon’s race played a role in the lack of urgency in his treatment and attention to his case.

Jayceon’s mother, Lakiesha Belin, said her son called and hung up. His father called back and he screamed. His parents rushed to the friend’s house to find Jayceon covered in petroleum jelly and plastic wrap. The third grader is now in the intensive care unit at Arkansas Children’s Hospital recovering from burns to the back of his body.

Jayceon Charles, 8, is in the intensive care unit at Arkansas Children’s Hospital recovering from burns to the back of his body. (Photos: Facebook/Mark Cannon)

The boy had to be resuscitated twice, his family said. He breathes through a tube connected to a ventilator. Jayceon suffered brain damage and kidney failure and had to undergo multiple surgeries. Doctors had to remove 5 inches of his small intestine and he had a life-threatening infection called sepsis.

Earl Charles said none of the explanations he received for what happened to his grandson made sense.

“The stories that were being told never really suited me from the start,” Charles said in a Facebook video. “I never understood why so many people dropped the ball and just didn’t show any concern.”

Jayceon’s family immediately contacted the police. The Arkansas State Police told that they will take over the investigation on Oct. 6 and will forward the results to local prosecutors. However, Charles fears that two months after the fiery incident, “important evidence” may have been lost.

Belin said Jayceon’s boyfriend’s parents told her, “Something in the fire exploded.” The other family had two fires running, she said. Belin said the adults at the home did not call the fire department or make arrangements to take him and Jayceon to the hospital. Instead, he was taken to the hospital after his parents’ arrival.

Belin said she doesn’t understand why they didn’t call for help or contact his family when “they had enough time” to smear Jayceon with petroleum jelly and cover him with plastic wrap.

Jayceon Charles, 8 before he was cremated. (Photos: Facebook/Kiesha Supaabadd Belin)

The boy’s father, Justin Charles, said he did not believe Jayceon’s injuries were the result of an accident. He wants his son to make a full recovery, but he also wants justice for Jayceon.

Charles also believes that because Jayceon is black and the other family is white, local authorities did not prioritize an investigation into the incident.

“I really feel like it should be looked into from day one when we got to the hospital,” he said. “They didn’t even call the police at the hospital.”

Charles said they were never questioned by police and would have to contact authorities themselves to move the case forward.

“It was a difficult situation for all of us,” he said.

Community activist Mark Cannon said authorities and the hospital “abandoned” Jayceon and his family.

“Is it because they’re black? Is it because Jayceon is black?” Cannon asked. “What if his name was Billy or Chuck or Blair? Would it have been different?”

Two months, multiple surgeries, and two terse talks later, Jayceon’s family said they were grateful he was making progress. Belin is worried about what her only child’s recovery process will be like and what life might be like for the active 8-year-old after the tragedy.

“It’s hard because I don’t know if my baby will be like this anymore,” she said, breaking down in tears.

Before the fire, Jayceon liked to play outdoors. His favorite sport was basketball and he loved video games, his mother said.

“I don’t know if he’ll ever be able to do that again,” Belin added. Arkansas family outraged after 8-year-old was burned on 80 percent of body at white playmate’s home with no one seeking help

James Brien

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