Vigil held for battered, murdered baby

Beyond for lamenting this child’s tragic death, see why a group gathered in a nearby park, in this exclusive East Portland News story …

Court documents reveal doctor’s testimony that 2-year-old Coltin Jacob Johnson (called Coltin Salisbury in some news reports) died in this motel, having suffered a blow with “a great deal of force” which caused serious brain injury.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When police arrived at the Unicorn Inn Motel on SE 82nd Avenue, on the evening of March 4, they found a 6 ft. 6 in. tall, 221 lbs. man in one of the rooms – along with a two-year-old boy, who was clinging to life.

Two days after the toddler was rescued, doctors at Oregon Health & Science University said that 2-year-old Coltin Jacob Johnson no longer had brain activity, and had died at the hospital.

The tall man in the motel room with him, 28-year-old Joshua A. Howard, was arrested.

> To see this story that was published soon after the news broke, CLICK HERE.

28-year-old Joshua A. Howard pleads “Not Guilty” when arraigned for the murder of Coltin Salisbury. MCDC booking photo

When he was arraigned at the Multnomah County Courthouse on March 6, court documents report that Howard told detectives several “versions” of why the baby, in his care, was unconscious. He later admitted, documents revealed, that because the baby was fussing and had vomited on the motel room bed, he yanked the boy into the bathroom and forcefully threw him at the front of the toilet.

A Probably Cause Affidavit also presented a lengthy list of injuries the baby had suffered, including a fractured skull and jaw, eye hemorrhage, a swollen brain, and multiple bruises.

Because baby Coltin died after Howard’s arraignment, additional charges were subsequently brought against the suspect, including Aggravated Murder, and Criminal Mistreatment in the First Degree. He remains in custody in the Multnomah County Detention Center.

It was later revealed that Joshua Howard, who formerly lived in Astoria, wasn’t permitted to live with his own child, yet he was staying with Coltin Jacob Johnson and the baby’s mother.

Devin Hooff, a childhood friend of the slain baby’s dad, places candles and arranges flowers next to a handwritten note the father, Greg Johnson of Seaside, asked to be delivered to this candlelight vigil, held at Lents Park. It reads: My Baby Colton – There aren’t enough candles in the world that could measure the light you brought to my life. Heaven beams even brighter now! Love, your Daddy”.

Candlelight vigil held at Lents Park
As twilight fell in Lents Park on March 14, a group of people gathered at the gazebo.

“We are here to honor Coltin, who was murdered not too far from here,” said Cindy Heer, with Stop Abuse and Violence Everywhere (SAVE).

“We believe Coltin was murdered by his mother’s boyfriend; she abandoned him in that motel room. We are here to honor his life, and let his father’s side of the family know that we are here for them.”

New SAVE member Pamelah Tilus lights helps light candles at the vigil.

Heer said that two other children, outside the Portland area, also died violent deaths that week.

“We’re part of a national organization of advocates who really want to see the public be more aware of what’s going on in our communities, with child abuse and neglect-related issues,” Heer told East Portland News. “We want to raise awareness about prevention, and how we can come together as a community to do that.”

SAVE advocate Cindy Heer passes a candle to her daughter.

Infants and little kids don’t really have a “voice”, she said “We have to be that voice. We’re here to break the silence about child abuse. It’s not a happy subject, so people do not want to talk about it.

“But, unless we talk about it, we will never change things,” Heer pointed out.

Gathered in a circle in the gazebo, SAVE advocates share thoughts and prayers for the remaining family of baby Coltin.

While standing in a circle, faces lit by candlelight, Heer she felt so sad when she saw on a SAVE Facebook page a picture of Coltin. “The caption read, ‘Maybe you’ll be the one who saves me’. This isn’t a disease. This is 100% preventable.

“It’s our aim and goal that this kind of tragedy can be prevented from happening ever again.”

 The family of Lori, Greg and Matt Johnson are having a memorial service on April 5 at 2:00 p.m. at Hughes Ransom Mortuary in Seaside, for Coltin Jacob Johnson.

> To view the “We SAVE Oregon” Facebook page, CLICK HERE.
> Or, to see the resources provided by the national SAVE organization, CLICK HERE.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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