PORT ORCHARD – Prosecutors on Friday increased murder charges against a woman accused of killing her 9-year-old son Halloween morning, saying statements made by Amber Lynn James to a Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputy showed premeditation.
James, accused of killing Ryan Rosales, was led into Kitsap County Superior Court wearing shackles and a red “high risk” jail uniform. She wept while standing before Judge Leila Mills and made eye contact with loved ones in the courtroom. James will appear again Wednesday, at which time she may enter a plea and a trial date may be set.
Her attorney, public defender Cal Cunningham, said he could not comment on whether he would argue a mental health defense.
James, 47, had exhibited signs of mental distress in the lead-up to Ryan’s death, according to reports and Ryan’s father, James Rosales. She had been watching “conspiracy type” videos online, and a detective wrote in court documents these seemed to have caused her some anxiety. On Oct. 30, the day before Ryan’s death, James wrote on social media that she believed she was being followed and sought help from law enforcement.
Investigators determined Ryan died of asphyxia, and, according to court documents, James told a deputy she strangled Ryan with her hands after praying and thinking about it.
James Rosales told the Kitsap Sun that the two were not living as a couple but parented Ryan together. James Rosales said he allowed Amber James to stay at his house in a guest bedroom the night before so she could be close to her son. James Rosales said Amber James loved Ryan and never showed any sign she would hurt him.
“She loved her son so much,” James Rosales said. “There was no indication she would hurt him, ever.”
He described Ryan as an imaginative, outgoing boy who loved building things.
Initially, James had been charged with second-degree murder for Ryan’s death, but prosecutors increased the charges to first-degree murder with two aggravating circumstances: one for “deliberate cruelty” and the other for Ryan being a “particularly vulnerable victim.”
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Montgomery said the increased charges came after prosecutors were able to digest initial reports from Kitsap County Sheriff’s detectives.
After she was arrested, James was taken to Harrison Medical Center for a medical and mental evaluation due to what appeared to be self-inflicted injuries to her neck.
“While at the hospital and unsolicited by Deputy (Brad) Trout, Amber told Deputy Trout that she needed to save her son from people that were after us, needed to protect him,” a detective wrote in court documents. “She described (Ryan) as the best kid in the world. She stated she prayed, thought about it, cried and then put her hands around his throat so he couldn’t breathe any longer. Amber then asked Deputy Trout, how do I explain to someone why I just (expletive) killed my kid? What is a good explanation of that? I killed my (expletive) kid.”
Montgomery said there was no indication alcohol or meth was involved.
In state law, first-degree murder describes a murder where beforehand there was planning for “more than a moment in time.”
Prosecutor Tina Robinson said her read of charging documents justified the first-degree murder charge, as second-degree murder gave James the benefit of the doubt.
“It’s too soon to give that benefit of the doubt,” Robinson said, saying prosecutors owed it to the public, Ryan and Ryan’s family to understand what happened before the case could be resolved with a lesser murder charge.