Danny Platt Apologizes for Killing Son, Ja'Shawn Powell
New Orleans police said Saturday that a dispute about $4,000 in child support payments prompted a 22-year-old man to kill his 2-year-old son, dump his body in a playground and concoct an elaborate story about the boy's abduction.
Detectives escorted Danny Platt, 22, into jail Saturday evening and booked him with first-degree murder in the death of his son, Ja'Shawn Powell, less than 24 hours earlier.
His hands cuffed behind his back, his head hanging low, his eyes red and wet, Platt said, "I'm sorry about killing my baby."
Platt had confessed to detectives at midday and led them to an overgrown section of a Central City playground where he had dumped the boy's body in a bag, police said.
Platt told police that he did not want to pay the child support he owed to the boy's mother and that he had previously threatened violence over the money.
"He had made some comments that he would kill either the wife or the child before he paid child support," NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley said at a news conference.
Ja'Shawn had big brown eyes, chubby cheeks and a stain on his baby teeth.
His 48-pound body was discovered in a section of Van McMurray Park, behind a house in the 1900 block of Jackson Avenue.
John Gagliano, chief investigator for the Orleans Parish coroner's office, declined to confirm the identity of the victim or release the cause of death. He said only that a body had been found in a bag Saturday and that an autopsy will be done today.
Tale of abduction
On Friday night, Platt told investigators that a group of men wielding AK-47s had taken the boy after confronting the father and son at a Central City street corner, just blocks from where the body was later found.
State Police issued an advisory Saturday morning, and the New Orleans Police Department issued an Amber Alert and a description of the missing boy. Within hours, though, the father's story began to fall apart.
"His story never really added up," Riley said. "He was a suspect from the very beginning."
Police said Platt, who lives in the 2800 block of Baronne Street, told investigators that he and Ja'Shawn were standing at Jackson Avenue and Brainard Street on Friday around 11:30 p.m. when three men forced him to the ground at gunpoint. He said the men took his son and fled in a dark 2000 Chevrolet Tahoe or GMC Yukon with black-tinted windows and shiny paint.
Ja'Shawn's mother, Daniella Powell, said in an interview with WWL-TV that Platt recently had been ordered to pay more than $4,000 in child support and that it had become a point of contention between the two.
On Friday around 8:30 p.m., Platt called her, asking to spend the weekend with Ja'Shawn, she said. He picked up the toddler shortly thereafter.
He called back several hours later to say the child had been kidnapped, then quickly hung up, Powell said.
Powell said Platt told her he had reported the abduction to police, but when Powell called the police herself, she was told he had not called.
Powell told the station that Platt changed his story several times, first telling her that a woman had taken Ja'Shawn, then saying a group of men took the child after looking for a man named Johnny and asking for money.
Platt and Powell were separated, police said. Platt had visitation rights, though he had never taken advantage of them before.
'A lot of pressure'
The suspected motive for the slaying shocked even veteran homicide detectives.
"This incident and the manner in which he killed his child was extremely hideous," Riley said, wondering aloud how someone could use murder as a remedy for paying child support.
"There are some sick individuals in this society, and this gentleman is clearly one," he said.
During his short walk to jail in front of cameras and reporters, Platt said there were a "whole bunch of reasons" for killing his son. "I had a lot of pressure on me," he said. He didn't elaborate.
Police and FBI agents worked through the night after the abduction report.
Then, shortly after noon Saturday, detectives cordoned off part of the 1900 block of Jackson Avenue. Gagliano and crime scene technicians appeared. They traipsed through an unkempt lot and an alley alongside a house.
With the rain coming down, they held umbrellas high and stared at the ground near the park's baseball backstop, a dozen or so yards from a colorful jungle gym.
Gagliano backed his car up the alley. He didn't need the transport van or a gurney. The toddler's body fit in the trunk.