Three defendants charged with the death of a 5-year-old boy have pleaded not guilty.

Thirty-six-year-old Russel Allen James Jr. pleaded not guilty to the charges of child neglect and abuse.
On Feb. 18, Bismarck police responded to a report of an unresponsive 5-year-old boy, Geremy Doyle.

Officers say they found him unconscious, not breathing, with numerous injuries throughout his body.

In a court hearing Friday at the Burleigh County Courthouse, witness Detective Jacob Bratsch from the Bismarck Police Department told the court both Rolanda Doyle and Russel Allen James Jr. were aware of the many injuries Geremy had.

He says not only did he have many injuries, but he was also not eating, falling down on several occasions and having signs of frostbite.

“G.D. was made to go sleep in essentially an entryway of this residence that was unheated in the middle of winter. It was actually later that an officer when the trailer was revisited a jug of water was frozen in the entryway on a 15-degree day,” said Bratsch.

In the investigation, Bratsch says Geremy faced painful punishments frequently.

“There is a belt here that appears out of place on the countertop in that bathroom. Essentially everybody interviewed in this case depicted that our victim for punishments would have to go to the bathroom and get hit with a belt,” said Bratsch.

In the hearing, we were told Rolanda and James were dating and James stays in the home at least two to three days out of the week.

We were also told Rolanda is Geremy’s aunt and received custody of him in 2021.

“Thanksgiving 2021, Mr. James and Ms. Doyle and what sounded like others traveled down to Atlanta, Georgia to retrieve or to get the victim, G.D. and his two other siblings and bring them up and live in Bismark, North Dakota since then,” said Bratsch.

Bratsch says James told him they moved them to get away from problems in Georgia and for a better education.

Investigators say Rolanda and James did try to treat the injuries they noticed on Geremy, namely the swelling on his feet and injuries on his lower buttocks.

“He stated that Roland Doyle was treating that with rubbing alcohol and aloe vera,” said Bratsch.

Even though they did try to self-treat, Geremy was not taken to the hospital for the critical care he needed.

Rolanda has also pleaded not guilty.

Investigators say James’ four biological children were also staying in the home.

A jury trial has been set for Aug. 2.