Before he died last month, 10-year-old Braxtyn Smith, of Bangor, endured months of being zip tied to doorknobs, chairs and his parents. Malnourished, he was bruised, had been repeatedly pushed and burned, and food was withheld from him as a punishment, court documents show.

His mother, father and paternal grandmother are each charged with depraved indifference murder in Braxtyn’s Feb. 18 death and remained in the Penobscot County Jail on Saturday.

The parents are Joshua Smith, 33, and Jem Bean, 35, and grandmother Mistie Latourette, 56, all of Bangor.

Braxtyn’s injuries – which include bleeding between his brain and skull, ulcers on his back and loss of hair – were consistent with battered child syndrome, according to an autopsy by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Affidavits from Bangor Police Department detectives also showed there was evidence that the child had been sexually abused.

“Somebody failed Braxtyn,” said Bill Diamond, the founder of Walk a Mile in Their Shoes, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing child homicides and child abuse in Maine, including children in state custody. Diamond, who is a former state senator, provided the court affidavits to the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on Saturday.


“We’re waiting to see if the Department of Health and Human Services was involved, but somebody along the line failed him,” Diamond said. “We have to be more aggressive in finding out why these things are going on. If we don’t get a handle on this quicker, more kids are going to die needlessly.”

The abuse started when Braxtyn was around 9, the affidavit states. After a July 4 barbecue last year, the host later told detectives that Braxtyn’s parents had told him to sit under a tree with the dogs and that he was not allowed to eat. The host said Braxtyn told them that he was sleeping in the bathroom, court records stated.

It’s not clear if DHHS had been involved in Braxtyn’s life. The agency is not mentioned in the affidavit, and a spokesperson for the department would not say last week whether DHHS had prior contact with the child.

According to a 2023 report, the state agency responsible for protecting the safety and welfare of Maine children is falling short of national standards for protecting against repeat cases of abuse and neglect. The rate at which children in Maine are experiencing recurring maltreatment is twice the national average, the report stated. The Office of Child and Family Services adequately identified risk and safety concerns in half of the cases reviewed, and it only addressed and monitored risks 26% of the time. 

According to court affidavits, Braxtyn lived with his parents and one sibling. He was home-schooled, and Latourette often came over to help. Smith told police that no one else but he, Bean and Latourette cared for Braxtyn.

The night before Braxtyn died, his breathing was shallow; he was weak, tired and vomiting, court records state. A hospital worker later told police that the boy’s vomit had the odor and appearance of pet food.


Before taking him to the hospital, Bean called Latourette to help because Braxtyn was struggling to breathe. Braxtyn was put in his parents’ bed for the night. When his breathing became worse, Bean started to perform CPR before ultimately taking him to the emergency room at St. Joseph Hospital about 8 a.m.

Braxtyn wasn’t breathing when he arrived. Medical staff were able to regain his pulse after about 25 minutes, the affidavit states.

Braxtyn was transferred to the pediatric ICU at Eastern Maine Medical Center. At 9:13 p.m., he was pronounced dead.

Detectives interviewed the family over several days after Braxtyn’s death.

Smith told detectives that Braxtyn was defiant, sneaky and could not be left alone because he would get into things, like medicine, that could hurt him. So Smith said he started to zip tie Braxtyn almost daily. He looped the zip ties long enough so that Braxtyn could go to the bathroom. He said Braxtyn recently hurt his mouth trying to chew through the ties, court records state.

The couple had started to bind Braxtyn’s hands together, sometimes behind his back, and tied him to boxes, doorknobs and other furniture to keep him from moving around the house on his own.


Bean told police that she disagreed with zip tying or withholding food from Braxtyn, but she didn’t challenge Smith because he threatened her.

Latourette told police that Braxtyn had not been to her house for several months because of her grandson’s behavior, but she went to the family’s home often. She said her son would ask her for parenting advice, and she suggested withholding food from Braxtyn as a means of punishment.

Smith said Braxtyn would refuse to eat, then try to take food out of the trash, saying he was hungry.

Smith told police that he couldn’t explain his son’s injuries but that the boy often fell down and would walk slowly, causing Smith to knock into him.

The father told detectives that he pushed his son at times and played with him by “popping” him in the chest. One time when Braxtyn fell, Smith said he went to catch him and hit his child in the face by accident, the affidavit says.

Bean told police that she’d seen Smith knock Braxtyn down, and that she had seen Latourette strike Braxtyn’s head, too. 

Texts between Smith and his mother show them telling each other to make sure Braxtyn wore sunglasses when they went to the store, court records state. 

Smith also sent messages to his mother saying, “the little one is super tired and I’m going to slap him already so it should be fun.” He also said he was “going to kill (expletive) head,” and he didn’t trust his son “to stay anywhere with small ties.”

The case will go to a grand jury.

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