FARMINGTON — Joshua Schoenenberger is pursuing an appeal to the Utah Court of Appeals of his conviction in the 2015 murder of a 2-year-old boy who suffered extensive blunt-force injuries.
The Davis County Commission on Tuesday approved a contract with the State Indigent Defense Funds Board to pay attorney Scott L. Wiggins up to $80,000 to represent Schoenenberger, 40, of Layton, in the appeal.
Police and prosecutors in the case said Schoenenberger became frustrated with JJ Sieger’s toilet training and inflicted fatal injuries on the boy, who was the son of Schoenenberger’s girlfriend.
The mother, Jasmine Bridgeman — later convicted of obstruction of justice and now out on parole — told medical personnel the toddler had been left unattended in a tub May 9, 2015.
The boy died two days later.
Police said Schoenenberger over the course of interrogations told four different versions of what happened, alternately contending he found the toddler face down in the tub, dropped the boy, accidentally stepped on him, or was in the shower with the boy and squeezed his abdomen in frustration.
A state medical examiner testified at sentencing that he found numerous blunt-force injuries on the boy’s abdomen, torso, head and extremities and that his colon was torn and his liver bleeding.
The toddler also had cuts and scrapes on his genitalia.
A jury in October 2018 convicted Schoenenberger of first-degree felony aggravated murder and Judge John R. Morris in April 2019 sentenced him to life in prison without parole.
Morris called Schoenenberger’s actions “indifferent and cruel.”
Schoenenberger, who is held at the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison, has maintained his innocence.
He first appealed his conviction to Morris. In the appeal, Schoenberger’s attorney at the time, Edward Brass, challenged the admission of a photograph of JJ’s colon.
The photo “was gruesome and served to inflame the passions of the jurors,” Brass argued.
But Morris ruled the photo shows damage to the boy’s internal organs “and is relevant to whether the homicide was committed with reckless indifference to human life.”
The judge added that the photo “contradicts defendant’s claim that the injuries to the child’s abdomen were caused by resuscitation efforts or merely dropping the victim on the bathroom floor.”
Morris further ruled Brass’s arguments to suppress evidence were made too late. He said Brass also did not demonstrate evidence showing Layton police may have violated Schoenenberger’s right to counsel and withheld other evidence.
After Morris’ ruling, Schoenenberger made an unsuccessful handwritten motion to fire Brass as his attorney.
The Court of Appeals clerk’s office said Tuesday a notice of appeal of Schoenenberger’s conviction was filed Aug. 2, 2019. Since then, numerous delays have been granted for the filing of the initial appeal briefs by Schoenenberger’s attorneys.
A court spokeswoman said Schoenenberger’s side now has a Feb. 8 deadline to file those documents. No date for an appeal hearing has been set.
Wiggins, Schoenenberger’s appellate attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the case.