CLEARCREEK TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Hospital workers took two-month-old Cayden Colwell’s small handprint in black ink just before he died. His great-aunt, Christal Hipsher, wore it on a T-shirt over her heart Monday as she waited for the suspect in his murder — Cayden’s biological father — to be extradited back to Ohio.
“We want Cayden here, but he’s not,” she said. “So we want justice.”
Cody Colwell was arrested Saturday on a two counts of murder, two counts of endangering children and one count of felonious assault. Hipsher said the indictment arrived as a shock, and neither she nor Cayden’s mother, 23-year-old Franklin resident Jami Standifer, had ever considered Colwell a threat to either of Standifer’s young sons.
“We’ve never seen him act in any ill way,” Hipsher said. “As soon as we met him a year ago, we liked him. ... We can’t explain it.”
Colwell called police himself April 11, the day Cayden was transported to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital with injuries that would claim his life within days. He said then he didn’t know what had happened to the child — only that he had stopped breathing and needed help.
He made a similar call to Standifer soon after.
“As soon as I heard it, my stomach just dropped,” she said. “I broke down into tears. I rushed to the hospital. It was a very emotional and hard day.”
The days since haven’t been much easier, she added. Police and prosecutors revealed Monday they had pinpointed the cause of Cayden’s death: Severe blunt force trauma.
"A substantial amount of force was used to injure the child," Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell told the Journal-News.
Fornshell said investigators also discovered Cayden’s 3-year-old brother, who was not Colwell’s biological child, had bruises on his shoulder, cheek, neck and abdomen.
Colwell did not turn himself in as he had promised police, Clearcreek Township Chief John Terrill said. Instead, he fled to Lexington, Kentucky.
“They did find him in an apartment down there. He would not surrender originally and had to be talked down by a negotiator to surrender himself,” Terill said.
He also said police had been called to Colwell and Standifer's home several times before April 11, although he did not remember whether they specifically concerned Colwell's behavior.
“I’m pretty much numb at this point," said Standifer, who claimed she had not spoken to Colwell since the day Cayden was taken to the hospital. "My heart hurts every day … I’m very upset, but I just try to hold it in there."
She said she remembers Cayden as a “really happy” baby who woke her up every morning with smiles and laughter. His brother asks about him sometimes, she said, and she tries to be gentle with the answer.
“I just try to explain to him, ‘Bubby is in the sky, flying high with the angels,’ and leave it at that,” she said.
Hipsher said she can't understand how anyone could kill a baby.
“There are so many more questions. Why didn’t you reach out to anybody? Cayden’s got a big family, any one of us would have came and helped him that day,” Hipsher said. “Why didn’t he call us before that circumstance happened and say, ‘I need a break?’ Just reach out. He didn’t reach out.
“Now we’re praying that the justice system puts him away for a really long time.”