Atlanta man who killed 9-month-old in his care to serve life in prison

Jelani Williams died in March 2021 when he was 9 months old.

Credit: GoFundMe

Credit: GoFundMe

Jelani Williams died in March 2021 when he was 9 months old.

An Atlanta man will serve the remainder of his life in prison for killing a 9-month-old boy he was babysitting.

A Fulton County jury convicted Dehaven Johnson, 30, of murder, cruelty to children and aggravated battery Wednesday in the baby’s March 2021 death, court records show. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Jelani Williams was a healthy baby who loved standing in his bouncer, his mother told Sandy Springs police in 2021. But hours after she dropped off the baby with a former roommate, little Jelani was dead, according to police.

The boy’s femur was broken in half and he had a contusion on his forehead and bruising on his back, a doctor told police. Jelani died after being taken to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite late on March 31.

Johnson was the second metro Atlanta caregiver in a week convicted of killing a child in their care. Last Friday, Amanda Hickey was sentenced to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder in the February 2021 death of a 4-month-old. She was the owner of Hickey’s Little Lovey home day care in Dunwoody at the time of the newborn’s death.

“My beautiful precious baby was taken away from me by a person I called a friend,” Jelani’s mother, Diasia Williams, said in a statement released by the Fulton DA’s office. “This has been a huge eye-opener. On March 31, 2021, heaven gained a precious child, and I am finally left with a sort of peace that Jelani received justice on October 18, 2023. Justice for Jelani. Justice for children everywhere.”

Following Jelani’s death, arrest warrants obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution stated that Johnson gave investigators different stories about what happened to the baby, including that he had fallen. But police said Johnson’s account didn’t add up, and he was arrested the day after the boy’s death.

Jelani’s mother had dropped him off at Johnson’s Sandy Springs apartment around 7 p.m. while she went to a club, according to his arrest warrant. At 9:30 p.m., Johnson sent the baby’s mother a photo, police said.

“In the picture, you can see a deformity to the left leg and an abrasion starting to form on his forehead,” Johnson’s warrant states.

In an interview with police, Johnson said that shortly before 11 p.m., the boy was drinking formula on his own, so Johnson left the room.

“He stated that he was out of the living room for about two minutes when he heard the child crying,” Johnson’s warrant states. “He rushed back to the living room to see the child choking and dribbling formula out of his mouth.”

Johnson said he called the baby’s mother, who told him to call 911. Johnson told a 911 operator the baby was having trouble breathing, according to police.

When asked about the baby’s injuries, Johnson provided excuses that didn’t add up, according to investigators.

A GoFundMe page was created to benefit the mother.

“Jelani was a happy little one and the center of his family,” the organizer posted. “He made a big impact on so many in just the little time he was here with us. He was able to brighten your day with his bright eyes and contagious smile.”

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