NEWTON— After several days of hearing testimony from family, friends and first responders, the jury finally began to hear from defendant William Howard Lail III about what happened the day Jaydon Ray Sandlin drowned.
While Lail did not testify in court Thursday afternoon, the first two hours of his interview with investigators after his arrest May 3, 2013, was shown to the jury in Catawba County Superior Court.
Lail is charged with one count of first-degree murder and four counts of felony child abuse. He does not face the death penalty.
He is accused of murdering Jaydon and physically abusing both Jaydon and his older sister, Kylie Madison Sandlin, at a residence in Long View. Kylie was 3 at the time of Lail’s arrest.
Prior to his arrest, Lail was taken to Frye Regional Medical Center from the crime scene after complaining of chest pains, where he was administered medication and released.
Marc Sharpe, State Bureau of Investigation assistant special agent in charge, was waiting for Lail in the emergency department lobby once he was cleared by doctors to leave.
“I asked him if he would be willing to sit down and talk with me, and he said yes,” Sharpe said, on the witness stand Thursday. “I told him he wasn’t under arrest or in custody.”
The pair, along with special agent in charge Heath McBride, found a small empty room in the hospital to talk.
“I then asked William to describe his day,” Sharpe said.
After talking with Lail for a while, they asked him if he would be willing to come with them to the Long View Police Department (LVPD) and he agreed.
At LVPD, the agents questioned Lail again before telling him he was free to go; however, LVPD decided to arrest Lail and transport him to the Catawba County Jail.
There, he was taken into a room at the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office with Sharpe and McBride for questioning, which was video and audio recorded. The previous interviews with the agents were not recorded.
“I don’t understand why I’m here,” Lail said after he was read his Miranda rights and signed a document stating he understood the rights. “I’ve told you everything that happened.”
The agents told Lail his earlier statements did not match what was found on the crime scene.
“I’m telling you the honest to God truth about what happened today,” he said.
After a few moments, he sat back in his chair and said, before taking a deep, exasperated breath, “I’m just sitting here thinking how I’m never going to see my kids again.”
Once again, the agents asked Lail to tell them everything that happened May 3.
In the first non-recorded interview, Lail told Sharpe he, Kylie, Jaydon and the children’s mother Whitney Weathers woke up early so they could go to the methadone clinic to pick up Lail’s prescription.
However, during his post-arrest recorded interview, Lail admitted he didn’t tell the truth, and Jaydon was left at home alone, asleep on the couch.
After he, Kylie and Weathers left the methadone clinic, they went to grab breakfast at Bojangles and chocolate milk at Food Lion before returning home, Lail said.
“Jaydon wouldn’t eat,” he added.
Lail and Weathers took a nap before she had to be at work at 10:15 a.m.
He began to tell investigators he loaded up the car and drove the short trip to Weathers’ place of employment, but he was interrupted by the agents who said neighbors informed officers they did not see him leave with the children when he took Weathers to work.
“We need you to tell us the truth,” Sharpe said. “We aren’t asking you questions that we don’t already know the answers to.”
Lail admitted he left the children home and continued with describing his day.
A week and a half prior to Jaydon’s death, Lail said both Jaydon and Kylie were scalded by their bath water after he left them alone to take the trash out.
When first responders arrived to the scene, they discovered burns and bruising on Kylie and Jaydon.
“I didn’t take them to the doctor because Whitney was afraid of (Department of Social Services),” Lail said.
He added he went to the store and bought the children Motrin, bandages and aloe lotion.
“I was trying to get them to heal,” he told the agents.
After taking Weathers to work, Lail returned home to the children.
A while later, he noticed Kylie and Jaydon had soiled their diapers, saying there was a lot of feces so he decided to give them a bath.
“The Motrin was making their stomachs upset,” he said.
He gave both of the children a bath at once, washing Kylie first.
“Jaydon was thirsty and said he was thirsty so I gave him some water with the red cup in the tub,” Lail said.
Jaydon also liked to drink the bath water, he added. He also remembered Jaydon getting soap in his eye, so he washed it out for him.
He then took Kylie out of the tub to dry her hair, leaving Jaydon alone in the tub. Once he was finished with Kylie, he went to the use the computer before removing Jaydon from the bath.
“When I took Jaydon out of the tub he was OK,” Lail said. “I picked him up, took him to the living room where Kylie was, and he burped before I sat him down. He fist bumped me. He seemed lethargic, but he was conscious.”
Lail walked away again to make some phone calls.
The first two hours out of the roughly four-hour interview was shown in court Thursday afternoon.
Throughout the first two hours, the agents questioned Lail about several other topics other than the day Jaydon died.
“You didn’t want to be a parent, did you?” Sharpe asked.
Lail responded, “I didn’t want the responsibility of being a dad. I told (Whitney) every day.”
He also admitted to leaving the children home alone on multiple occasions in either their car seats or on a blanket in the closet.
“I’ll admit to s----- parenting,” he said. “I should’ve had more eyes on them.”
While he did admit to leaving the children alone, Lail told the agents he never punched, smacked or physically abused them, only disciplined them with “a pop on the hand, butt or legs.”
The agents informed Lail there was blood found throughout the house and asked him if he knew where it came from.
Earlier that day, SBI agents collected a pillow and mattress with reddish stains and swabs from a reddish stain behind a door in the apartment.
“I don’t know about it,” he said. “I don’t pay attention to everything that happens.”
He did admit Kylie kept picking at her scabs, which bled some, and Jaydon’s bottom was bleeding a little bit when he put him in the tub.
“That’s the only blood I know about,” he said. “We let Jaydon sleep in the tub with the pillow because he couldn’t wear a diaper (due to the burns).”
Lail eventually apologized for lying earlier on in the interview and said, “I took good care of them, but I was hiding these things from you because I didn’t want you to think I’m a bad person.”
Throughout the first two hours, he kept insisting he would never harm the kids.
As for his behavior, he became clearly upset at times, banging his fist on the table at one point, and he fidgeted in his seat, alternating from sitting back in his chair with his arms crossed to leaning forward, resting his arms on the table and head on his hands.
“I was lazy with ‘em,” Lail said. “I tried to keep them fed, clothed and cleaned, and let that be that.”
The jury will finish viewing the final two hours of his post-arrest interview in Catawba County Superior Court on Friday.