‘This is a case involving pure evil:’ Ky. mother still seeking justice in child’s death

Published: Dec. 28, 2021 at 5:39 PM EST
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JACKSON COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - Jesse Durham has spent the past few years flipping through photos of her son, James, on her phone.

“I look at them a lot because I miss my son and I feel like justice hasn’t been done yet,” Durham said.

Police said in 2017 Lonnie Belt kidnapped the two and took them to a secluded wooded area. They said Belt hit Jesse in the head and pushed her off a tall cliff, leaving her with significant injuries.

Belt told police he struck James in the head several times with a metal object. The boy died. Jesse is still grieving and frustrated that Belt hasn’t gone to trial.

“It’s been five years. It should have already been done. Crimes and trials have happened since then, so there’s no real excuse,” Durham said.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Gary Gregory said the nature of the case is what’s causing the hold up. He’s seeking the death penalty.

“This is a heinous case. This is a case involving pure evil,” Gregory said.

He said death penalty cases require an extensive jury selection process. With COVID-19 numbers, the court is afraid of jurors getting sick, which Gregory says could lead to a mistrial.

“Believe me, we don’t want to do that,” Gregory said.

For now, Jesse is left with a memorial honoring her son that has a cross, flowers, and some of his toys.

“I want justice for James. I want the trial to happen. I want it to be carried out,” Durham said.

Belt’s trial is scheduled for October.

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