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‘The story we talked about didn’t work’: 20-year-old mom and boyfriend allegedly beat 2-year-old to death, ‘fabricated’ dog attack tale

Leilah Lopez and Johnny Brazell

Leilah Lopez and Johnny Brazell (Maricopa County)

An Arizona mother and her boyfriend, both 20, were arrested this week for allegedly killing her 2-year-old son and then lying to police about the source of the boy’s horrific injuries.

Leilah Lopez and Johnny Brazell II were taken into custody on Tuesday and each have been charged with first-degree murder and child abuse in the brutal slaying of young Braxton Lopez, authorities announced. According to the Glendale Police Department in Arizona, officers and firefighters responded at approximately 10 a.m. on May 16 to a 911 call placed by Brazell, who allegedly told the emergency dispatcher that Braxton had been attacked by a dog earlier in the day and was no longer breathing.

Upon arriving at the scene, first responders allegedly observed multiple injuries to the child, including “numerous bruises all over Braxton,” GPD spokesperson Gina Winn said during a Wednesday press conference. Paramedics attempted life-saving measures on the child and transported him to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead.

Medical personnel allegedly told police that Braxton had a multitude of injuries in different states of healing, indicating that he was the victim of prolonged and regular physical abuse. During the initial interviews of Lopez and Brazell, both allegedly provided “lengthy” stories about how Braxton had been attacked by a dog earlier in the day. Police said there were “a lot of discrepancies” in the narratives told by each suspect, however.

“When they were confronted with these discrepancies, Brazell admitted to killing Braxton,” Winn said. “In the morning, Braxton was trying to take down a blanket that was covering a window — which is a very common thing for a child to do — and Brazell came into the room and punished him for doing so.”

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Brazell allegedly admitted to “picking Braxton up by the leg and dangling him in the air by his leg,” then taking a belt and “hit Braxton with it repeatedly all over his body.”

“He also, while holding [Braxton] by the legs, threw him against furniture causing significant injury to his head where he had fractures to the skull,” Winn stated.

Brazell allegedly told investigators that he intentionally dropped the child on his head onto the hardwood floor several times. In addition to the fractured skull and bruising, Braxton also sustained lacerations to the head, bruising around his eyes, according to Winn.

Following the fatal beating, Brazell allegedly told Lopez what had occurred and then took a different child to a medical appointment, leaving Braxton in the care of his mother. Rather than calling 911 or seeking medical attention for Braxton, who was noticeably struggling to breathe, Lopez allegedly gave the boy a bath and then put him down for a nap.

Winn said that Lopez eventually called Brazell back to the home as the boy’s breathing worsened. When he arrived, Braxton had already stopped breathing. Lopez and Brazell then spoke with one another and “fabricated” the story about the boy being attacked by a dog while on a walk, police said.

When the two were left in an interview room by themselves, Brazell could allegedly be heard saying to Lopez, “The story we talked about didn’t work,” authorities said.

“This is an unimaginable nightmare for a child. You talk about kids experiencing nightmares when they sleep and this child lived it every day,” Winn said.

Watch the press conference below:

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.