Mother claims boyfriend beat her while she held baby

Kelsey Lee told Jacksonville police she used her arms to shield child

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The mother of a 2-week-old boy in Jacksonville said she was assaulted by the child's father as she held the baby in her hands.

Kelsey Lee, 21, said last Friday she was lying in bed with the baby when her then-boyfriend's phone received a text message from another woman. Lee said that's when she packed her bags to leave but her boyfriend James Ryan McKinney, 27, stopped her.

"He started whaling on my face. I dropped to the floor to protect the baby. He started hitting me in my back, he rolled me over and put his hands around my throat," Lee said.

According to Lee, McKinney began choking her until she passed out. After waking up, Lee said he choked her a second time until she once again passed out.

Once she regained consciousness, Lee said McKinney was aiming a shotgun at her.

"It was pointed right here at the temple of my head," Lee said.

According to the incident report from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Lee told police the child was not hurt, and she used her hands and arms to shield the boy.

"No one deserves to go through something like this," Lee said. "You feel like you have to look over your shoulder because you feel your kids are in danger and your life is in danger."

On Tuesday evening, McKinney was seen handcuffed as he was escorted to a police cruiser by JSO officers from his Arlington home. As he was placed into the cruiser, Lee told News4Jax she felt safer knowing he was in custody.

"This is what I call the justice system," said Lee, who was outside the home during the arrest. "All you women out there who are going through this, this is what you need -- this is what you need to do. This is the right way to handle your things. You make sure you go to the police, and you make sure you call them if you ever in your life get hurt.”

McKinney was charged with battery, battery by strangulation and child abuse. He was held in jail on no bond.

On Wednesday afternoon, McKinney sat in a Duval County courtroom as his attorney requested to push his initial hearing. The request was granted.

News4Jax spoke to Lee's mother, Lindsey Sheppard, who said she was a victim of domestic violence. She's proud of her daughter for speaking out.

"I've been there. I've been that girl," Sheppard said. "Call somebody. Anybody. Let your family know."

LINK: Help for victims of domestic violence

Prior arrests

Court records show McKinney has past arrests for battery. In 2009 and 2011, he was convicted of domestic battery in Nassau County.

In 2013, McKinney was arrested in Nassau County for aggravated battery on a pregnant person and felony domestic battery. Prosecutors dropped the battery charge on a pregnant person, and adjudication was withheld on the felony domestic battery charge in that case.

In 2012, McKinney was convicted of battery in Duval County. Then in 2015, he was arrested and accused of beating his ex-wife.

Karen Wilson, a manager at Hubbard House, which is a non-profit domestic violence shelter, said plea bargains are common in domestic abuse cases, and sometimes the cases get dropped.

"They (the defendant) may plead the case down to a misdemeanor. Once that it's downplayed to a misdemeanor, they feel that, "I have gotten away with it. Nothing serious happened to me, so I can go and do this again.'"

LINK: Hubbard House official website


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