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A New Jersey mother is accused of smothering her toddler son because she saw him as an impediment to the extramarital affair she was having.
On Tuesday, 41-year-old Heather Reynolds appeared before a Camden County judge for a detention hearing. She is charged with murder, endangering the welfare of a child, possession of methamphetamine and hindering apprehension in connection with the May 2018 death of her son, Axel, ABC6, CBS3, NJ.com report.
Text messages recovered from her phone showed Reynolds and a man had been having an affair while her husband was working out of state, Assistant Prosecutor Peter Gallagher alleged in court, NJ.com reports.
“A review of the text messages between the defendant and her boyfriend from the previous night reveal that the defendant was becoming frustrated by the boyfriend’s apparent lack of interest,” Gallagher said. “And witnesses also told detectives that the defendant had expressed the sentiment that her toddler son … was an obstacle to her relationship with her boyfriend.”
On the morning of May 10, 2018, Reynolds walked out of her Gloucester Township home carrying the lifeless body of her son, 17-month-old Axel, and crying for her neighbors to call 911. When first responders arrived, they found Axel’s body cold and bruising on his mouth and nose, NJ.com reports.
Reynolds told first responders that Axel smelled like rubbing alcohol, and she posited he may have accidentally drank something poisonous.
But the Camden County Medical Examiner ruled Axel’s death a homicide by asphyxia. In court, Gallagher alleged the boy died when “a wipe containing [rubbing] alcohol and detergent was placed over the mouth and nose.”
Gallagher said in court that Axel’s death was suspicious from the beginning, but it took a year for prosecutors to gather enough evidence to bring charges.
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Witnesses said that on the night of her son’s death, Reynolds had been using methamphetamine, and police allegedly recovered residue from her purse, Gallagher said.
Reynolds has pleaded not guilty to all charges. During Tuesday’s hearing, her attorney, Michael Testa, Sr., said his client has “suffered greatly as a result of this,” adding that her husband died six months after her son did.
But Gallagher said the real victim was Axel, telling the court, “This was an absolutely brutal murder and a helpless victim.”
The judge ruled Reynolds will remain behind bars until trial. If found guilty, she faces a life sentence, NJ.com and ABC6 report.
Testa could not be reached for comment Thursday.