BRENTWOOD, N.H. (AP) — A series of videos taken days before a 3-year-old brain-injured boy was hospitalized start with the Plaistow toddler stumbling and saying he has a "tummy ache" and end with him curled up in the bathtub being yelled at and ordered to stop having seizures.
Jessica Linscott took the videos in November 2012, shortly before leaving her son at a hospital and fleeing with Roland Dow to Florida, where they were arrested two weeks later at a theme park. Her son, James Nicholson, was treated for a severe brain injury and burns on his wrist and fingers.
Linscott covered her face and cried Thursday as the videos were shown to jurors at Dow's trial on assault and other charges.
Linscott said she took the videos and showed them to doctors because she knew something was seriously wrong with her son, but she thought he was purposely having what she called "autistic fits."
In one video, James stands with his fists clenched and says, "I feel like I have a tummy ache," then brings his hands to his heads and appears to stumble. In the others, he is stiff and unresponsive as Linscott tries to put him on the toilet, or is seen in the tub, with both Linscott and Dow telling him to "stop it."
"You need to sit up. You're going to hurt yourself," Dow is heard saying. "What is the matter right now? Why are you having a fit?"
Linscott, who is serving 2½ to 7 years in prison for child endangerment and witness tampering, says Dow physically and mentally abused her and treated her son "worse than a dog you don't want." She said Dow struck James in the head when he had seizures, and admitted she did not try to comfort her child.
"I allowed a lot of things to happen that I shouldn't have let happen. I was being a horrific parent," she said. "I was neglecting my son's needs. I was putting Roland first and letting him take control of every situation."
Linscott said she let Dow abuse and terrify James in part because she feared he would do something even worse if she left him.
"I still right now feel like he's going to do something," she said. "I feel as if this whole thing is my fault. I feel like in his head, he thinks he didn't do anything wrong, and I feel as though if something happens to him, and he gets time, when he gets out, he's going to come find me."
Dow hated James and punished him at the slightest provocation, she said. If James soiled his clothes, Dow would make him go in the shower to rinse off, holding him down and spraying him with water. Sometimes, the frantic toddler fell in the tub and got hurt as he struggled, she said.
In Dow's eyes, her son could do nothing right, Linscott said.
"No matter what my son was doing, he was doing it wrong," she said. "My son couldn't color the right way, he couldn't eat the right way, he couldn't talk the right way."
Linscott admitted that she, too, put her son in the shower but said she was more gentle. She also admitted spanking James, saying if she didn't, Dow would do it "and it would be a lot worse."
Dow's defense attorneys say Linscott has a history of falsely accusing others when she feels threatened. She testified that she lied to doctors and police before fleeing to Florida, but told the truth when a detective questioned her about the black eye Dow gave her while they were on the run.
Linscott said she was afraid to take her son and leave Dow because he had hit her, ripped out her hair, repeatedly choked her and once threw her down the stairs. While she did leave for three days when he threatened to slit her throat, she said she returned after he said he would kill himself.
Jurors also watched a video of the couple preparing James for a social worker's visit in October 2012. The video, which Linscott said Dow shot from under a couch, doesn't clearly show the couple or the boy, but their voices could be heard.
Dow is heard asking James, "Do you like being here?" ''Anybody ever spank you?" and "Ever go in the shower when you're really bad?" and the boy answers softly, 'yeah,' 'no' and 'no.'
After asking, "If someone said I hit you, are they lying?" Dow answers himself with a stern "Yes."
At one point, Dow says, "Hey, give me a hug. We're best friends, right?"
It's unclear how much James, who is living with Linscott's mother, has recovered from his injuries, but prosecutors have said they are considering having him testify at the trial.