BRENTWOOD — Jessica Linscott sobbed on the witness stand Thursday, recalling how her former boyfriend would strike her 3-year-old son in the head, and hold him underwater in the shower as a form of punishment.
“I know it was wrong and I was in the wrong,” Linscott told jurors. “I know it was my fault too, but I didn’t mean for any of it to happen.”
While a red-faced Linscott fought back tears, Dow, 28, remained composed and took notes during the third day of testimony in his first-degree assault trial. He is accused of battering and burning James between September and November 2012.
Jurors watched a series of videos taken by Linscott that showed her limp-bodied son, his eyes dilated in a darkened bathroom while Linscott and Dow speak to him, trying to get him to stand. One juror was so shaken that he cried in court and shielded his eyes as images of a sometimes naked James played on a large projection screen.
In one video, the boy appears to be cowering in a bathtub while Dow sternly asks, “What are you doing right now, James? What? You what? Going to what? Going to the bathroom in the tub?”
Linscott, 24, who lived with Dow for several months, also buried her face in her hands on the witness stand while the videos played.
She told jurors that she made the videos because she believed her son had autism at the time. She said she was trying to figure out what was wrong with him, but ultimately she fled with Dow to Orlando, Fla., after leaving her son at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in November 2012.
Linscott had shuffled back into court on Thursday wearing leg chains and an orange jail jumpsuit, taking the witness stand for the prosecution. She is serving 2 1/2 to seven years in prison for witness tampering and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child for failing to report the alleged abuse.
She testified on Thursday that in Dow’s eyes, her son could never do anything right.
“No matter what my son was doing, he was doing it incorrectly,” Linscott said. “He couldn’t color correctly.”
Linscott said that Dow also had a jealous streak and that he often got physical when they fought.
“One time, he picked me up and dropped me over the stairs. He ripped a handful of hair out of my head,” Linscott said.
She told the jury that someday — if Dow ever gets out of jail — that he might come after her.
“He might look small and little, but to me he is scary,” she said.
Linscott said Dow treated her son, “worse than a dog that you don’t want — that was my comparison.”
According to Linscott’s testimony, James endured punishments that included being held underwater in the shower for wetting himself; James would slip and hit his head in the tub. She also said Dow used an open hand to strike James in the head and spanked the boy for minor infractions.
But Dow loved his own young daughter, Natalie, and never put a hand to her, according to Linscott.
James was in a perpetual state of “time-out” imposed by Dow, who would sometimes punish the tot by making him run back and forth in his yard, Linscott said.
Hospital doctors later concluded that the little boy had severe head trauma. Spinal fluid had leaked into his head, causing it to swell with pressure, according to Linscott.
While living at Dow’s duplex on Main Street in Plaistow, Linscott said her son appeared to eventually go numb from being hit.
“He was shocked. He didn’t cry. Initially, he cried. Roland told him not to cry. It was really awful. He like basically shut down. He wouldn’t even want to talk to me,” she said. Linscott said she tried to leave Dow several times, but it always ended in fights.
Asked why she stayed with Dow, Linscott said, “I thought that the situation would change or I could change the situation with Roland. I was trying to think of the good times. It wasn’t always bad.”