Mom, boyfriend charged with murder in baby’s death

Eleven days after Journey Ann Cowart celebrated her first birthday, she was dead.

The Bartow County sheriff said Monday the baby was beaten to death, allegedly at the hands of her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. And it wasn’t the first time she had been abused, Sheriff Clark Millsap said.

“A fractured skull, blunt force trauma to the stomach,” Millsap said, describing Journey’s injuries. “The child had healed ribs that had previously been broken. And she also had a femur that had cracked and had already healed.”

Charges were upgraded to murder Monday for Brandy Ann Boyd, 25, and Austin Levi Payne, 24, both of Cartersville, Millsap said.

On Jan. 21, Journey was not breathing when she was transported to Cartersville Medical Center, where she died in the emergency room, the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office previously said. Three days later, Boyd and Payne were arrested and charged with first-degree cruelty to children and aggravated assault.

The couple has been held in the Bartow County jail without bond since the arrests. But the charges were upgraded following an autopsy, Millsap said Monday. Neither the sheriff’s office nor the Division of Family and Children’s Services had previously investigated abuse allegations involving Boyd or Payne, Millsap said.

“I love what I do, but that’s the part that makes it hard,” Millsap said. “This little girl has no more chances. She’s out. Rest in peace.”

Journey’s father, Blake Cowart, was found dead in the Etowah River last May, more than a month after he was reported missing.

The funeral for Journey was held Monday afternoon at the Church at Liberty Square in Cartersville. Parnick Jennings Funeral Home handled arrangements.