Detective says teen looked like 'skin dressed on bones'

Published: Mar. 28, 2012 at 8:24 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 29, 2012 at 4:18 AM EDT
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Joshua Jacob Mendoza, left, was found dead on Feb. 10 His mother, Kimberly Marie Love, center,...
Joshua Jacob Mendoza, left, was found dead on Feb. 10 His mother, Kimberly Marie Love, center, and stepfather, Jason Monroe Buckley, right, are charged.

SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - Brand new testimony from a Summerville police detective Wednesday shed light on the condition of a disabled 13-year-old boy found dead in his home last month.

The Dorchester County Coroner's Office ruled Joshua Mendoza's death a murder by years and months of malnourishment and neglect. The boy's mother, Kimberly Love, and step father, Jason Buckley, were arrested on the charge.

A preliminary hearing for the couple was held Wednesday and the court proceeding provided new details on the boy's death.

"He basically looked like skin dressed on bones - or that of a Nazi World War II death camp victim," said Summerville Detective Jonathan Hoff.

After a frantic 911 call was placed from Mendoza's parent's home in Summerville Feb. 10, Hoff arrived on scene five minutes later. The Detective says Mendoza was found lifeless, wrapped up in a blanket in the kitchen floor of the home.

At the hearing, Hoff took the stand and was questioned about the circumstances around the murder case against Love and Buckley.

Wednesday, the couple did not show up at the hearing but their attorneys were present.

The Dorchester County solicitor questioned Hoff for 20 minutes on a range of subjects including the child's condition to his mother's reaction just after she found out he was dead.

"Both EMS workers indicated they recall Love saying she was such a bad mother. They said that she said it several times," said Hoff, who took testimonies from the workers since they were they first along with the Summerville Fire Department to arrive on scene.

Hoff presented a school picture of Mendoza taken in 2004 and told the courtroom Mendoza appeared to be a normal, healthy looking child.

The picture was the last one Mendoza would have made while in school.

In 2006, Hoff's investigation found Mendoza was taken off medicine that controlled his seizures. Mendoza had been taking Topamax since 1998.

Without Topamax, health records show Mendoza suffered more than 30 seizures a day. While on the drug, his seizures were reduced to just once episode a day.

Hoff said in 2006, the family did not re-apply for Medicaid and because of the decision Mendoza did not receive his seizure medication since. In fact, the Coroner's Office concluded the 13-year-old had not seen a doctor since then either.

Mendoza suffered from a disease called Tuberous Sclerosis since he was three months old.

At the time of his death, the Coroner's office says Mendoza weighed just under 50 pounds. An autopsy found six bed sores on the teen's body. Hoff says the worst was on his hip.

"It was almost like a crater," he said. "It had some depth to it."

The description of the suspected neglect and malnourishment Mendoza underwent wasn't the only shocker. A friend who spent time with the family in 2009 said she never heard of the boy.

"She visited the residence approximately 40 to 50 times for cookouts and gatherings and never knew Joshua Mendoza existed," Hoff testified.

The detective's testimony also revealed a chemical smell was identified by officers when they approached the home. Hoff described the smell as a cleaning agent and said the house was picked up and in good condition like it had been cleaned.

The Coroner's office determined Mendoza's time of death to be in the morning hours of Feb. 10. The 911 call placed to police wasn't made until just before five that night. The detective said Mendoza was stiff when detectives found him, he was very cold and his skin had a greenish tint to it.

Hoff also stated on the record that Mendoza slept on an air mattress and the comforter on the bed had been made and did not look like anyone had been laying there when police arrived.

The judge ruled the murder charges against the couple will stand until a trial date is set, although he was torn about the charge against Buckley.

The step father's attorney argued for the charge to be dropped since he was working in Kansas City from the beginning of the year until after Mendoza died.

The Dorchester County solicitor said another hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Copyright 2012 WCSC. All rights reserved.