Mother describes agony of removing son from life support

Boyfriend Johnny Ray Byrkett facing injury to a child/serious bodily injury charges


Her voice choked with emotion, Sarah Combs told how she held her 1-year-old son, Cruz Ethan Combs, in her arms as he took his last breath.

She was testifying Thursday in the trial of her former live-in boyfriend, Johnny Ray Byrkett.

Byrkett (pictured) is charged with injury to a child/serious bodily injury.

He told police that he was taking a mid-morning nap with the child on June 4, 2009, on the floor of an apartment in Windcrest that he shared with Combs and her four children.

Brykett said he awakened to find the child unresponsive and barely breathing.

The baby was rushed to the hospital and placed on life support as doctors treated him for what prosecutors said were traumatic internal head injuries, injuries they said were consistent with his head being struck by -- or against -- a blunt object, or being shaken severely.

Prosecutor Chris DiMartino showed Combs a picture of her son taken at the hospital while he was attached to life support systems and asked, “Do you recognize this photograph, ma'am?”

Fighting back tears, Combs replied, “Yes, that is my son Ethan.”

She said doctors told her that her son was brain dead and asked her permission to discontinue life support efforts.

She agreed.

“I was in the room with him and they unhooked everything and I got to hold him until he stopped breathing,” Combs said.

She said she broke up with Byrkett right after her son’s funeral.

Byrkett was later charged with injury to a child/serious bodily injury.

If he is convicted, he is facing a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Testimony will continue on Friday in Judge Melisa Skinner’s 290th District Court.


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