New details in child murder case, extent of injuries revealed


Kendall Downing

JACKSON COUNTY, Ill. — Head trauma, multiple fractured ribs on both sides, and a bleeding liver: those are just a few of the injuries Jackson County investigators said caused the death of 2-year-old Michael Pulliam.

The man charged with the toddler's murder faced a judge again Friday for a preliminary hearing.

Jarrod Rudder, 24, entered a not guilty plea. He's charged with two counts of first degree murder. Rudder and the child's mother Amanda Howell were in a relationship at the time.

Howell left her son with Rudder while she went to work in nearby Desoto, Illinois, April 20.

Later that night, police were called to the Elkville, Illinois, home where Pulliam was found unresponsive. He died April 22 at Children's Hospital in St. Louis.

The next day, the Jackson County State's Attorney charged Jarrod Rudder with the boy's murder.

In court this morning, investigators testified Rudder admitted to grabbing Pulliam by the wrist and swinging him. They also said Rudder told them he tried to save the young child.

Rudder avoided our questions as he entered the courthouse.

But inside the building, investigators revealed Rudder has been talking to them. They said his story keeps changing.

In an interview on April 21, investigators said Rudder told them Michael Pulliam fell and bit his tongue. That accounted for blood found around the child's mouth.

Then, in another interview April 23, they said Rudder told them he gave the child a corn dog and the toddler got sick.

They say he then grabbed Michael by the wrist and swung him but lost his grip. The child hit the floor and the wall of the mobile home.

Rudder never called 9-1-1 but instead waited for Michael's mother to get home.

"It was horrible," said Ashley Clerk, Pulliam's step-great aunt. "I couldn't, I wanted to leave but I didn't want to leave because I wanted to know the truth."

Clerk said it's hard to stomach the circumstances surrounding Michael's death.

The toddler's mother, Amanda Howell, declined to speak with Local 6 on camera. We asked her if she felt responsible in any way for her son's death and she said no.

Rudder's attorney asked for a reduction in bond but the state's attorney argued against that, saying Rudder is initially from Michigan and should be considered a flight risk.

The judge denied a request for lower bond.

A pretrial conference is scheduled for July 19. The judge set Rudder's jury trial date for July 23.