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Father faces charges in baby boy's death
By KATHRYN WEXLER
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 18, 2000
TAMPA -- When Tony Lamont Bragg Jr. is buried this week, his little body will be kept from view. His mother plans to prop up a picture of the smiling toddler on his tiny casket during the memorial.
"His lip was busted and his whole side of his face was bruised," said Steve Rozier, maternal grandfather of the 9-month-old boy who was killed over the weekend.
Officials lay blame for Tony's death on his father, 25-year-old Tony Lamont Bragg Sr. According to Temple Terrace police, Bragg Sr. inflicted a sharp blow to his son's chest, breaking a rib which in turn punctured his heart, causing him to bleed to death. The child also had a freshly broken collar bone.
Bragg's statements to detectives were contradictory and ultimately incriminating, said Temple Terrace police Capt. Tracy Mishler. He told them he kept the boy in a playpen in a utility room at his rented apartment, 11500 Summit West Blvd., and hadn't checked on him for at least 24 hours.
"Smokey," as Bragg is called, also said he was carrying his son the day before when the boy's head, chest and shoulder slammed into a door frame, according to his arrest affidavit.
"He said it was more of an accident but our medical examiner is pretty clear it was intentional," Mishler said.
Bragg was arrested late Sunday night on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. He was being held without bail. Over the years, he has faced charges related to drugs, weapons and grand theft, and done jail time.
Police said the boy's 23-year-old mother, Brandy Bragg, is separated from her husband. She left their son and another child, a 4-year-old boy who is not related to Bragg, in Bragg's care all last week, Mishler said.
Bragg was training at a nearby McDonald's. Police said the stress of a new job while caring for both boys may have contributed to the violence.
"He seemed frustrated," Mishler said.
The toddler was kept in his playpen night and day, his 4-year-old half brother, Andrew, told police. State officials took Andrew into custody and are examining the boy for abuse, said Tom Jones, spokesman for the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Child welfare workers had long been concerned about Mrs. Bragg's kids. Complaints were lodged that her home was dirty and that Tony Bragg, her husband of one year, was involved in drugs, though no allegations of child abuse were ever substantiated, Jones said.
Despite computer research and contact with Mrs. Bragg's relatives, caseworkers hadn't been able to find her since last October, Jones said.
Consequently, little Tony never came across their radar.
"We had no idea that she had had that child," Jones said.
Mrs. Bragg's other child, Jasmine, now 3, who has a different father from that of her half siblings, was permanently placed with another relative last year. "It's a very dysfunctional family," Jones said.
Rozier said Bragg was supposed to drop off the children Friday evening at his daughter's mobile home on N Nebraska Avenue. About 7 p.m. that night, Bragg dialed 911 on a cellular phone.
"He said the child wasn't breathing and the child may be dead," Mishler said.
Paramedics arrived and found Tony clad in a diaper, lying on the floor next to the playpen. The medical examiner determined he had died 12 to 18 hours before authorities arrived, Mishler said.
Mrs. Bragg spent all day Monday with state caseworkers dealing with Andrew, Rozier said.
"I'm sure she's angry at herself for letting the kids stay" with Bragg, Rozier said.- Kathryn Wexler can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or email@example.com.
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.