HOUMA — As her unconscious 1-year-old grandson was rushed into the emergency room at Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center, Jackie Nutter placed her index finger inside the baby's still hand.
“He squeezed my finger. That was the last time he would ever do that,” she said, then broke down into tears. “He never held my hand again.”
Investigation into the death, which authorities say was due to asphyxiation, continues as detectives gather more evidence.
What they have learned thus far is that the incident blamed for the baby's death is likely not isolated, police said. They are compiling allegations of prior physical abuse previously unreported to authorities.
Cody Bourg's relatives have described him as a devoted father who would never do anything to harm his son. But relatives of his girlfriend, Kristen Kappel, tell a different story.
As investigators continue their work, a more complex picture of the child's father emerges.
Terrebonne sheriff's Capt. Dawn Foret confirmed that she received reports from family members on both sides about past acts of violence against the baby.
In one instance, relatives said the child was thrown violently into a couch by his tiny arm, allegedly by Bourg.
In another instance, relatives said, the child — while strapped into a car seat — was flung onto the ground, allegedly by Bourg.
“He had anger issues. He was always angry, angry looking,” said Nutter, whose daughter lived in her house in Bourg with the baby until the day he ended up in the hospital. “Some days he would come over here and be as good as gold. I knew something was wrong with him, and he could not stay here.”
Nutter and other relatives said Bourg frequently boasted about having “lethal hands” and are bitter at the irony his murder charge suggests.
“He said his hands were illegal weapons,” Nutter said.
Bourg's family alleges Kristen Kappel was violent toward the child, citing an instance where she and Cody got into an argument and she flung the baby onto a sofa after holding him by one of his wrists.
Detectives said they don't know yet whether charges will be filed against anyone besides Cody Bourg, either for acts against the child, or failure to report such.
Nutter said the couple were troubled. But always, she said, Kristen would go back to him.
The night she went to the home of Bourg's family with her baby, Nutter said, relatives actually thought she was going to another relation's house.
At Nutter's own home on Tuesday the lights were dim. In a wood-paneled dining room cluttered with family photos, Nutter and Kappel were focused on a collage they had made with photos of the child's brief life.
A Power Wheels Volkswagen Julian once played was parked near the door. He wasn't big enough to reach the pedals, but he enjoyed touching the toy and sitting in it.
The collage shows Julian with a smiling Kappel, and a newborn Julian in the arms of his beaming grandmother. One of the photos had been of the baby with his father, but Cody Bourg's image had been cut out.
Another image from his Sept. 17 birthday party shows the boy covered in icing.
“We had to hose him down,” said Nutter, who complains that media reports have focused far too much on the man accused of killing Julian, and not enough on the baby himself.
“Julian was a little man in my life, that I felt in my heart and soul was this little dude that lit up a room and lit up my life. He would make anyone want to change just to be around him” she said. He “was here for a reason. When I would hide in a corner and say ‘Julian, Julian,' when he'd hear my voice he would come flying across the room to me. He was like a road runner.”
When Nutter worked at Rouses supermarket near Prospect Boulevard, filling orders for oilfield boats and fishing vessels, Nutter's daughter would sometimes visit with Julian in tow.
“Everybody in the store knew how much I loved him, and I would drop what I was doing and say ‘Excuse me, that's my grandbaby,' ” Nutter said. Even before he began trying to form words, Julian would click his tongue at his grandma. “That's how we communicated.”
The mother of three children — two boys, aged 12 and 17, and 20-year-old Kristen — Nutter said Julian taught her how the love of and for a grandchild is something quite different and unique.
“The love I have for my children is unconditional,” she said. “The love I have for Julian is also unconditional, When you have a grandbaby, not that it is more or less, it is the love for your kids and then for this other part of your life, a grandbaby that came out of my daughter, it's from my child. I was in the delivery room ... and I loved him from day one.”
Julian had a bright future, in his grandmother's opinion, and was discerning even at such a young age. He didn't like Fruity Pebbles or Cocoa Pebbles, she said, because they got mushy quickly. But he loved Apple Jacks.
Before he was a year old, Nutter said, Julian could pick out the Apple Jacks box, because it contained the cereal he liked.
After being taken to Chabert, Julian was transported to Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans. There, family members had to decide whether the baby should be removed from life-sustaining machinery.
“I told my daughter to let him go, he is already just about in heaven so let him go,” Nutter said. “He is already an angel.”
While praying in the hospital she wrote two notes to her grandson, the first at 4:13 p.m. on Oct. 19.
“Even though you are only 1, you have impacted my world with happiness and laughter,” the note reads. “That smile you bring makes it all worth it. Smile again, smile again, if only for once. I love you always.”