MONTICELLO — The drain cleaner that killed a Wayne County boy after he drank it in 2009 was left in a cup when someone showed his 14-year-old mother how to use the chemical in making methamphetamine, according to an attorney in the case.
Alisha Branham, the boy's mother, had asked a woman named Alisha Dicken to show her how to make meth, attorney James Wren II said Thursday during a hearing.
Dicken put some of the chemical into a cup to show Branham how much to mix in when making meth, Wren said.
The caustic cleaner, called Liquid Fire, can be mixed with other substances in homemade labs to create a reaction that produces the highly addictive drug.
On May 30, 2009, Branham's 20-month-old son, Kayden, later picked up the cup — which had been left on a table — while his parents weren't watching and drank the drain cleaner, according to earlier accounts in the case.
The chemical burned the boy internally. He died less than an hour later.
Wren represents Larry Branham, the boy's grandfather, who rented the small mobile home outside Monticello where the boy drank the chemical. Several people allegedly made meth at the trailer.
Larry Branham is charged with child endangerment, complicity to make meth and taking part in organized crime.
He has denied the charges. The account Wren gave Thursday is Larry Branham's theory of the case.
Wren argued in a court motion that Alisha Branham and Dicken were more culpable in the boy's death than they have claimed.
Alisha Branham pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree manslaughter and Dicken to a reduced charge of facilitation to make meth, according to court records.
Commonwealth's Attorney Matthew Leveridge said he could not comment on Wren's theory about how Kayden got access to the drain cleaner, other than to say it is at odds with prosecutors' theory of the case.
Alisha Branham told social workers soon after Kayden's death that she and the boy's father, Bryan Daniels, always took the child to stay elsewhere when meth was being cooked at the trailer, because they knew of the potential danger.
Branham said she and Daniels came back to the trailer with Kayden late that Saturday night, which is when the boy drank the chemical.
But Larry Branham also contends that when Kayden first drank the liquid, his mother balked at getting help, but that his father, Daniels, prevailed on her to take the boy to a nearby house where Larry Branham was staying, Wren said.
The three adults then took Kayden to the hospital.
Daniels; the boy's great-uncle, Danny Anderson II; and James Hunt are charged with murder, child endangerment, making meth and engaging in organized crime.
They have maintained their innocence.
Daniels, Anderson, Hunt and Larry Branham were scheduled to go on trial this month, but the trial was delayed because of defense concerns about trying them together.
Leveridge and attorneys agreed at the hearing Thursday to have separate trials for each of the four.
Daniels will be tried first. Circuit Judge Vernon Miniard Jr. scheduled his trial for April, with Branham to follow in June and the others later.
There might be difficulties in selecting a jury in the case in Wayne County because of extensive media publicity.
If so, Miniard said he will move the trial to another county.