A judge significantly reduced the $1 million bail for a 24-year-old man facing a murder charge in the April 2017 death of a Belleville toddler shortly after the toddler's mother wrote to the court to say she thought his charge was too harsh.
Kane Friess-Wylie was 2 1/2 years old when his mother, Lindsey Friess, and her then-boyfriend brought him to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville on April 13. From there, he was flown to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Gyasi Campbell, Friess' boyfriend at the time, was charged eight months after the toddler's death with first-degree murder. He was originally detained on $1 million bail, but on Tuesday, Judge Zina Cruse reduced his bail to $150,000. In order to be released from jail, Campbell would need to post $15,000 in cash.
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In a letter to the court filed March 21, Friess wrote that she did not believe the first-degree murder charge was appropriate in this case.
"I am not saying I think he should be free," the toddler's mother wrote in the three-page letter. "I believe there is a proper charge & sentence for the death of my son. And I do not believe 1st degree murder is that charge."
She went on to say that she believes Campbell was wrong for not calling 911 or herself when the toddler was hurt.
"I do agree that Gyasi must suffer the consequences for the responsibility of caring for Kane and failing," Friess wrote.
Campbell's defense attorney filed a motion to reduce bond on the same day as Friess' letter was filed. In it, the attorney included at least eight letters from various people defending the man's character.
"Gyasi has grown into a nice, respectful and responsible young man whom I am glad to know," minister Angelique Brown wrote. "As he continues to grow and become even more inquisitive, my hope is that he comes back to our church and share his creativity and talents with us."
Among the supporters who wrote letters were his childhood friend, Travon Williams; his great-aunt, Brenda Brinkley; his grandfather, Carl Brinkley Sr.; his employer, LaTasha Holiwell; and his mother, Paula Wofford.
"I could go through his life with you but will shorten this letter by saying that Gyasi is too focused on his then newborn daughter and his career to throw it all away on something as horrific as murdering a child," Wofford wrote.
Friess, in her letter to the court, also doubted Campbell's actions constituted murder.
"It so hard for me to believe that Gyasi murdered my son," she wrote. "No one has helped me convince myself of what they're accusing him of. It's hard for me to have my closure of what happened. It's difficult to bring myself to believe something I knew in my heart isn't true.
"For me to admit that he is capable of killing my son would be a lie. I don't understand or agree with what the justice system is doing."
Friess claimed in September that her ex-boyfriend’s story about what happened to the toddler had changed several times — from in which room the injury occurred to how her child was injured.
In addition, prosecutors filed two unrelated charges against the boyfriend in early August. He is accused of unlawfully entering Friess’ home in Belleville just after midnight on July 17 and damaging her television.
He is scheduled to have a bench trial in that case this July, according to online court records.
In April after the toddler's death, police initially detained an unnamed “person of interest," but that person was quickly released. Search warrants later showed that person to be Campbell, now of Berkeley, Missouri.
A search warrant stated that Friess came home April 13 to find Campbell holding Kane in a reclining chair. The toddler was conscious but obviously ill, vomiting right after she arrived.
Campbell put Kane’s head under a water faucet to revive him while Friess called 911, according to court documents.
“I’ve never seen a child hurt like that before in my life,” she told the News-Democrat in September. “It was just too much for me, after I held Kane.”
Friess told police that she had been gone for three hours. Campbell told her the child had fallen, and she believed him at the time but said Campbell’s story then changed several times. She came to believe that someone else had been in the house, she said.
“I feel like there are people that he knows and talks to that know what actually happened,” she said in September. “And I feel like they should tell me.”
Friess later addressed that claim and said the "hammering" was her hanging things on the wall as they had just moved into the apartment.
Campbell has pleaded not guilty in the first-degree murder case, according to court records. His next appearance is scheduled for April 30.
He was listed as a St. Clair County jail inmate as of Thursday afternoon.