Family Fundraising For Slain Baby's Funeral Receives Backlash

The parents accused of killing their 1-month-old baby appeared in court for the first time Monday. James Johnson Jr. and Denise Belmonte pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, assault and child cruelty.

Police say the couple's son Jordan died last Wednesday while under their care. Police say the baby had third-degree burns and broken bones.

In a jail house interview, Johnson said Belmonte accidentally burned the baby with hot bath water. But he had no explanation for the broken bones. Johnson says both of them had been involved in domestic violence, which led to their other children being taken away by child protective services.

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  • 35-Day-Old Baby Found Dead With Burns, Broken Bones
  • While Johnson and Belmonte appeared in court, Belmonte's family held a car wash in east Bakersfield to raise money for baby Jordan's funeral.

    But they say it has been difficult. "We literally had people pull up and say 'You don't need to be out doing a car wash. It's not right what the parents did. No one should help.' We want people to understand we are raising money for the rest of the family so we can bury (Jordan). We're not doing this for the parents," said Will Campos.

    The family hasn't been the only ones battling. "(Belmonte) was on suicide watch," said her aunt Diana Lujan.

    Relatives told 23 ABC Belmonte was beat up in jail over the weekend. "One minute they say she's in the psych (ward) and in next minute they say she's in the hospital," said Lujan.

    Neither the jail nor Kern Medical Center would comment on Belmonte's status. Her family said despite that and the backlash, their biggest concern is making sure baby Jordan gets a proper burial. "You know, it's not the baby's fault or the family's fault. If you can help out, we'd appreciate that," said Campos.

    If you'd like to help with funeral donations, relatives will be at Pop's Drive-Thru on Niles Street the rest of the week collecting donations.
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