A Stephens County judge formally arraigned Ryan Tyler Towell for one count of murder in the first degree by child abuse and a second count of child abuse in a case that resulted in the death of a three-year-old child.
Towell appeared on video conference in Judge Jerry Herberger’s special court chambers, where he received his charges and his bond total of $5 million for the two counts.
Stephens County Assistant District Attorney Cortnie Siess represented the State of Oklahoma in the case and asked Herberger for bond denial.
The criteria Siess provided the court alleged Towell had been “preying on young victims” and included photos of the deceased depicting multiple bruises all over the three-year-old’s body.
Siess also stated during the investigation, authorities learned Towell had a biological daughter who he is not allowed to see because of a previous Department of Human Services (DHS) case from allegedly shaking her.
She continued by saying Towell poses a threat to society and asked the judge to deny bond. Judge Herberger stated he normally doesn’t deny bond in his courtroom and set it for $5 million.
Duncan Police Sgt. Layle Baker, one of the first on the scene, arrived at the apartment complex where the three-year-old was reportedly not breathing as Survival Flight began transport of the three-year-old to Duncan Regional.
Baker, advised of the situation from another officer, went to talk with Towell and start the interview process.
Baker escorted Towell to the interview room where he heard his Miranda Rights and the interview began, first going over the events leading up to the 911 call.
Records showed around 10 a.m. on Sept. 18 the minor reportedly peed his pants and Towell allegedly spanked him and then shoved the child, although in the interview Towell changed his word to “push” because it “sounded harsh.”
The push, according to records, resulted in the minor falling down face first and hitting his head. Sgt. Baker asked how the minor fell face first and Towell stated he pushed and the minor left his feet and fell face first causing him to hit his head.
Baker asked if Towell went to check on the minor and he stated that he did not and the child “laid on the floor for about three to four seconds crying” before the minor got up and went into his brother’s room.
According to the affidavit, the next time Towell saw the minor was the next morning around 9 a.m. Sept. 19 when he heard him go to the bathroom for about 30 minutes.
Because of the extended period of time, Towell went into the bathroom and found the minor on the toilet, “slumped against the wall” and unresponsive.
Records showed Towell allegedly attempted CPR even though he didn’t know how to do it and after a couple of minutes of patting the child’s face, Towell decided to call 911.
In the interview, Towell also stated he pushed one of the other minor’s in the home as a “punishment.” Towell said this alleged pushing punishment came as a result of the second minor pushing the now deceased child and for also touching siblings in an inappropriate spot. Towell told police he “squeezed” this child’s arms to “make him come along.”
Baker told Towell at this time the three-year-old was air lifted to OU Trauma center in OKC and that it was “not looking good.” Baker noted in the report Towell then began to show his first sign “of any emotion.”
At that time, Baker advised Towell he was under arrest for two counts of child abuse and was taken to the Stephens County Jail.
Duncan Police learned from the Medical Examiner the minor had died at 5:26 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 20. An OU Medical doctor confirmed the death, which triggered an investigation by the medical examiner.
The medical examiner, right before the arraignment, informed of the completed autopsy and stated the manner of death was homicide by blunt force trauma.
In an interview after the arraignment and after speaking with the family, Baker stated the goal is to seek justice for the minor.
“They just want justice for the grandson, their son and their little brother and that is what I am here to do,” Baker said. “Once I got there, medical already had the child loaded up. The child was taken to Duncan Regional Hospital for treatment, that was received, and the child was airlifted to OU trauma.”
Baker stated police had not been called to that residence before and reiterated he never saw the boy, but did view pictures from the crime scene tech.
“Initially I didn’t know because I didn’t see the child, like I said he was already in the back of the ambulance,” Baker said. “Once the crime scene tech got there and took pictures and showed those to me, then I saw the severity of what I was dealing with. In 31 years of doing this job, it’s probably one of the worst I’ve ever seen. It is still an ongoing investigation so I can’t describe the photos, all I can tell you is that I don’t ever want to see that again.”
Baker said he is currently working on the investigation and confirmed more information from past experiences are there, which will release as the investigation continues.
The second minor is in good spirits, according to Baker, however he feels for the child and hopes justice will be served.
“He is doing well, I saw him this morning with the family before they left the courthouse. On the outside, he looks like a normal five-year-old, but in the inside he is torn up,” Baker said. “He is saying things that normal five-year-olds don’t say and he is making comments to the family that are not what a five-year-old should be saying and that is understandable. What they have been through and what they have seen is probably so horrific that it will affect them the rest of their lives.”
As he wrapped up his time at the Stephens County Courthouse, Baker said the important thing for citizens to remember is if you see something, say something.
“People that are out there on social media, if you know something please come see me and I will be glad to take a statement from you and use it in the prosecution,” Baker said. “Quit hiding behind your computer and come and let me talk to you and write it down.”
With the bond set for $5 million, Towell will appear for his next date in court when they announce his attorney at 2 p.m. Nov. 3. The preliminary hearing conference is tentatively scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Dec. 5.
- Charlene Belew contributed to this story.