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In The Best Interest of Joseph




Joseph Schoolfield was born at Anderson Hospital on July 29th, 2005, to Valerie Schoolfield and Matthew Wells. Over the next three and a half years, Joseph was primarily raised by his mother and her family. He was deeply loved and treasured by his grandmother and entire extended family. However, in the fall of 2008 Joseph’s life underwent major changes when his mother met Scott Endicott. What happened between the summer of 2008 and January 21, 2009, depends on which side of the story you believe. What cannot be debated, however, is that on January 21st, 2009, Joseph suffered severe head trauma that led to his death on January 25th, 2009.

In preparation to tell Joseph’s story, I attempted to contact Valerie Schoolfield, Valerie’s family, Scott Endicott, Matthew Wells, and Scott Endicott’s family. I was not able to reach Valerie or Matthew. Valerie’s family choose not to participate in this story but did give me a few details they felt were important to the story. Scott and his family were cooperative and eager to tell Scott’s side of the story. I began to correspond with Scott and asked him the questions that anyone familiar with this case would want answers to. I will present this story on a factual basis with direct quotations from my correspondence with Scott. The reader can then decide for themselves what they believe happened to Joseph and if justice has truly been served.

Scott Endicott had known of Valerie Schoolfield for a while before the two began to have a relationship because his aunt was friends with her family. However, it was not until July of 2008 when sparks started to fly between the two. Scott attended a party with his cousin and in attendance was also Valerie. “I was the only guy there so I got told that I had to grill the food. The time it took me to man the grill, Valerie was really the only one keeping me company” Scott wrote. At the time, Scott was dating someone else but says he was in the process of ending the relationship. However, the two exchanged phone numbers that night and a relationship developed quickly after.

Scott ended his relationship and began to pursue Valerie. “She wanted me to come to her apartment late at night after Joseph went to bed” Scott wrote. After a few of these late-night dates, Scott finally came over during the day and met Valerie’s three-year-old son Joseph. “The first time I met Joseph, he had bruises all up and down his legs” Scott wrote. Scott explained that he was not a parent at the time and believed Valerie when she told him that Joseph got hurt a lot because he was clumsy. Before long, the couple was inseparable and living together.

Scott says that between July and August he spent time with Joseph and Valerie regularly, playing with Joseph and treating him like his own son. He also says that Valerie’s family was very hesitant and unhappy about their relationship. By September, Valerie and Joseph had moved in with Scott in Madison County, Illinois. Valerie’s family was very unhappy with the arrangement.

Scott wrote that “Before me, Val used her mom as a babysitter. Her and Joseph use to go to her for dinner and other things, Valerie was a single mother who needed help. After she got with me, that slowed down cause she was stable and could depend on me”. He claims this infuriated her family, especially Valerie’s mother. Valerie’s family told me that Scott is very controlling and that was their objection to the relationship. “Val’s family said I was controlling and kept her from letting Joseph go visit them. I provided for Val and Joseph. As a result of that, Val didn’t need to depend on her mother or anyone else” Scott told me in response to the allegations of being controlling.

“I knew she had Joseph and I wanted them both. I was serious about both of them” Scott wrote. Before long, Joseph started calling Scott Dad. Shortly after moving in together, Joseph came to daycare with bruises. The daycare center, which Scott told me was run by Valerie’s aunt, notified DCFS of possible child abuse. Scott told me “Joseph fell getting out the bathtub in September. Val was making dinner and I went to get him out of the bath. I will admit, I have no idea what to do as far as being a parent so when I go to get him out, he said he wanted to do it on his own. I was sitting on the toilet while Joseph put his hand on my knee and tried raising his leg up over the tub. He didn’t make it and slid back into the molded shelves of the shower”. He claims this is what caused the bruising to Joseph. There were a few other incidents reported to DCFS of unexplained bruising on Joseph.

On September 25th, 2008, Joseph was taken into DCFS custody related to the bruising and abuse allegations. However, a judge returned Joseph to the care of his mother on October 7th. There was an order from the judge that Scott was to have no contact with Joseph. Scott moved out of his home to allow Valerie and Joseph to stay there. Scott wrote that “I loved Joseph and Valerie dearly that I decided to move out of my house to let them stay there but after the court stuff kept getting delayed, I had to go back home”. Scott admits that he violated the court order to have no contact with Joseph.

My question to Scott was why he stayed with Valerie and violated the court order after being blamed for child abuse if he was completely innocent. His response was “He asked me to be his dad. That instantly made me feel something that I never felt before. I have never been called that.” He said that he couldn’t simply abandon the boy he now called his son. He also said “I have seen Joseph being rough and clumsy and daring. I know that I was not harming him and believed the same things Val told DCFS”.

Valerie never accused Scott of abuse and always told authorities that the bruises on Joseph were caused by accidents. According to Scott, Valerie did admit to DCFS that she hit Joseph with a belt for playing too close to the stairs, but DCFS still placed the blame on Scott. I was not able to access the DCFS records to either verify or refute this claim. However, at some point DCFS interviewed Joseph at the Child Advocacy Center. Joseph told authorities that Scott had hit him and was a monster. I asked Scott about this as well.

“During his questioning he said the doctor hurt him, I hurt him, and at the very end he said his mom hurt him” Scott replied. He also said that the interviewer failed to follow up on some statements Joseph made about his mother hurting him and failed to determine if Joseph knew the difference between the truth and a lie. Scott expressed to me that he believed that Valerie’s family coached Joseph to say that Scott was the one hurting him.

Although Scott said he believed what Valerie was telling DCFS to be true, that Joseph’s injuries were all accidental, he did tell me that he witnesses Valerie spank Joseph on occasion, become irritated and short tempered often, and harshly punish Joseph for normal kid behavior. He said “Over time I believe she resented me or Joseph, because how Joseph latched on to me… Joseph always wanted me to play with him or help him. He chose me over her because I think I showed Joseph for attention than what Val did”.

Scott told me there were several incidents of bruising reported to DCFS throughout the rest of 2008. He claims that he was not living with Joseph most of that time and was not around when the injuries occurred. However, he says DCFS placed the blame on him because of statistical probability. Studies “found that mother’s boyfriends were responsible for 64 percent of non-parental abuse in single-parent families, despite performing less than 2 percent of non-parental childcare” (Margolin, 1992). By the end of 2008, Valerie and Joseph had moved to Carlyle to live with Scott’s parents.

According to Scott, he continued to live in his house in Madison County. Many media outlets reported that he was living with his parents, Valerie, and Joseph in Carlyle. Scott denies that and says that he was living more than thirty minutes away but admits to breaking the order of protection against him while visiting Valerie and Joseph.

On January 8th, 2009, Madison County filed charges against Scott for domestic battery for allegedly beating Joseph on the face and body. They also filed charges against Valerie for child endangerment as a result of failure to report multiple bruises on Joseph and seek medical assistance for him or report it to authorities. Those charges were still pending on January 20th, 2009, when Valerie learned she was pregnant.

“I can’t remember if Val was happy about being pregnant or not, nothing stood out to me. I remember her asking me what we were gonna do and her asking me about telling my parents” Scott told me of Valerie’s reaction to the pregnancy. He told me he was excited to be a father and looked forward to the baby being born. However, the events of January 21st, 2009, would change any plans Scott and Valerie had made.

According to Scott, the same night that Valerie learned she was pregnant she asked Scott to babysit Joseph the following day, January 21st. According to Scott, Joseph did not have the appropriate vaccinations required to attend daycare and Valerie was at risk of losing her job related to several call offs. Scott said, “I came to my parents house in the middle of the night, wish I never did, but that’s what brought me to Carlyle”.

On January 21st, 2009, at 6:53 am Scott texted Valerie “..son was laying on the floor by his bed… he said he was hurting his head in his sleep. So he prolly rolled out of bed. Woke me up crying. Cause he needs attention. This shit is getting old” (Ross, 2010). Valerie texted back “Just make sure he’s okay and doesn’t get hurt today. I love u” (Ross, 2010). Throughout the day, several more text messages were exchanged between Scott and Valerie as reported in the Breese Journal:

“He’s got a carpet burn on his forehead and some weird shape on his back from something. It’s red now. I don’t know if it’s gonna bruise. But you need to do something” – sent from Scott to Valerie.

“He is sick. He puked while he was sleeping and then puked when I was holding him. It was all flem and snot. He said his belly hurts and his head to … He’s got a bruise going all the way around the front of his head. I am worried a lil bit but I’m going to keep an extra eye on him. He seems so sad…” – sent from Scott to Valerie.

I asked Scott about these text messages and why he seemed so irritated in the first text message that morning. “I was not irritated with Joseph, I was irritated with the situation. Every time Joseph got a bruise, mark, or just got hurt Val always said that he is doing that for attention. Every time I would ask him how he got hurt he always said “I don’t know”. Valerie always had an explanation. In my mind, it was getting old cause every time Joseph gets hurt I’m to blame even when I’m not there” Scott told me.

Scott described that day to me, telling me much the same story he told police. He told me that he watched cartoons with Joseph and made him pizza rolls, although Joseph didn’t want to eat and threw up what he did eat. He said he did Joseph and Valerie’s laundry and took a nap at some point. Police investigating the case said that the computer in the home was used to access pornography throughout the day. I asked Scott about this too, and he said that “the window to that site was just kept open. That site and several non-pornography sites were open. Just because the computer shows it was open does not mean it was active”.

Eventually, Scott contacted another family member who came over to check on Joseph after he lost consciousness. Joseph was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Breese. In the emergency room, video footage shows Valerie arriving after Scott and Joseph. Valerie and Scott do not communicate at all. Scott immediately leaves the hospital upon her arrival. The prosecutors theorize this was because Valerie already knew what had caused her son’s injuries and Scott was leaving to avoid arrest as there was still a no contact order in place.

Valerie told the police and hospital staff that she was at home with Joseph when he fell from the top bunk of the bunk beds. An investigation quickly discovered that Valerie was at work at the time and the “top railing of the bunk bed was dusty, indicating that it had not been used” (Ross, 2010). The text messages continued while Valerie was at the hospital with Joseph. As reported in the Breese Journal, Scott texted Valerie that he was “scared and didn’t know what to do” (Ross, 2010).

“You know (family relative) isn’t going to lie right… me either” Valerie texted to Scott.

“Try to make it look like he was sleeping on the top bunk” Valerie texted to Scott.

“I think we’re fucked. I will prolly get arrested tonight” Scott texted to Valerie.

“Me too dude” Valerie responded to Scott via text.

“What are we gonna do. We have to stick together no matter what” Scott texted Valerie.

I asked Scott about why he left the hospital so abruptly when Valerie arrived to which he responded “I went back to put warmer clothes on. My dad called and said they were airlifting Joseph to Children’s Hospital. I got in my car and headed that way… I got another call from my Dad. He told me to go back to the house cause I was not allowed in the hospital and that I would be arrested if I showed up. So at that point I knew I was getting blamed again”.

I asked Scott if Valerie questioned him about what happened to Joseph. His response was “she didn’t question me cause she knows that I didn’t do anything and I think she thought if she did, then I would know something”. He also said, “She knew what she was doing and the fact that she seemed so chill and relayed the messages cause she knew what she did and didn’t think it was as serious as it was”. Scott implied to me that he believes Valerie hurt Joseph that morning before she left for work, causing his fatal injuries.

Scott never did alter the crime scene as Valerie suggested in the messages and did not offer that explanation to authorities when questioned. “It’s obvious that I didn’t go along with her story. I don’t know why she lied about that when I told them the opposite of what she said” Scott told me. I found no evidence that contradicted this statement or suggested that Scott tried to alter the scene.

From January 21st until January 25th, Joseph was in the ICU in St. Louis as doctors tried to save his life. He suffered from blunt force trauma to the head that caused severe brain swelling. He died on January 25th from his injuries. His organs were donated and saved the lives of five other children (AbuseAngels). On February 5th, 2009, Scott and Valerie were both charged with Joseph’s murder.

The State’s Attorney announced it would seek the death penalty against Scott Endicott. This meant that Scott was entitled to the Capital Defense Fund, allowing him enormous resources for his defense including multiple attorneys with experience in capital murder trials. As part of this preparation, two mock jury trials were done. One jury found enough reasonable doubt to say Scott was not guilty. The other disagreed. According to one of his attorneys at the time, the jury was asked to recommend a sentence if he was found guilty and both mock juries recommended the death penalty.

Just a week before his trial was set to begin, the State withdrew its motion to seek the death penalty. With this, the resources for the defense were also withdrawn and Scott was left with one attorney, Stewart Freeman. On July 23rd, 2010, Scott Endicott’s trial began in Clinton County. Medical witnesses took the stand and testified to the extent of Joseph’s injuries which also included a broken rib and internal organ injuries. Detectives provided testimony on the investigation and phone records of Valerie Schoolfield and Scott Endicott. The text messages were to be entered into evidence on July 27th, the third day of the trial.

However, many were surprised when on the morning of the 27th Scott Endicott changed his plea. He agreed to plead guilty in what is known was an Alford Plea. With this plea, Scott maintained his innocence but admitted there was sufficient evidence to convict him of the crime. How the plea came to be is the subject of appeals and arguments between Scott and his attorney. Scott was asked several times in court if he understood the plea and if he was entering this plea of his own free will. He answered that yes, he understood, to all the questions and the plea was accepted.

Sentencing was scheduled for September 29th, 2010. However, Scott entered a motion to withdraw his guilty plea on August 24th, 2010, claiming he was coerced into the plea by his attorney and parents (People V. Endicott, 2018). The next day Freeman filed a motion to be withdrawn as his attorney. Scott told the court that “I believe he lied to me and he also lied to my parents, and I believe that he didn’t exercise all my possible defenses before trial” (People V. Endicott, 2018).

One of the core issues was the allegation that Freeman insinuated that Scott would receive minimal time if he plead guilty. Freeman denies this, stating that he promised no specific sentence, but that life would be taken off the table with the plea. Scott’s motion to withdraw his plea was denied and he was sentenced to sixty years in prison in September of 2010.

Scott’s attorney was successful in having certain factors ruled out as aggravating factors in the sentencing including multiple prior arrests that did not result in charges and violent acts by other family members (People V. Endicott, 2018). Valerie’s family told me that Scott was not the first person in his family to commit murder. I asked Scott about this, and he shared that his half brother was arrested for a murder in the 1990s. The court ruled that this information was irrelevant to Scott’s case.

Aggravating factors the prosecution presented at sentencing included the prior charges Scott was facing for battery of Joseph, the violation of the protective order, the pornography accessed while Joseph was suffering from his injuries, Scott’s history of 17 traffic violations and a suspended license, physical abuse of a former girlfriend, poor school and work records, history of mental health issues that he refused treatment for, text message evidence suggesting he and Valerie planned to cover up the crime, and prior incidents of physical abuse against Joseph (People V. Endicott, 2018). The defense argued that Scott has had no serious criminal convictions prior to this case and showed genuine remorse (People V. Endicott, 2018).

Valerie’s family also shared with me that Scott’s previous girlfriend was going to testify that he was controlling and abusive to her. I asked Scott about this as well. He responded “We were together four years. Her parents kicked her out once, she chose to live with me and my parents. When I moved out from my parents, she left her parents house and moved in with me. She said what she said cause I broke her heart and told her she had to leave. The night I met Val at the b-day party, I was still with (her) so she was a scorned woman. I never abused (her) and if anyone was controlling, it was her”.

Scott told me that the first few days of the trial his attorney tried to convince him to take a plea as opposed to continuing the trial. The state planned to present several witnesses that would testify that Joseph told them about Scott abusing him. The morning of the third day, Freeman and Scott’s parents met with him and begged him to take a plea deal. “Everyone who was fighting for me turned on me. I was not guilty of murder so I was not going to say I was and that’s when Freeman explained the Alford plea and that’s also when my mom told me to do it for her” Scott told me.

Scott told me that since his trial he has learned that several witnesses were willing to testify that Valerie was abusive to Joseph and that they had witnessed bruising prior to Scott being a part of his life. He also told me that he was told Valerie was present physically but not emotionally while Joseph was hospitalized, frequently leaving his room to smoke or use her phone. He also shared the following with me about his regrets in retrospect:

“If I had to do it all over again, I wish I never met Valerie but then I would have never met Joseph and been called Dad for the first time. If I could go back to that day, I would not have hesitated about taking Joseph to the hospital. Instead of texting Val that day, I would just have went straight to the hospital that morning and Joseph would still be here. Joseph would be turning sixteen”.

Valerie gave birth in September 2009 to a son. She and Scott both lost their parental rights and Valerie’s family member is now raising the child. After Scott’s plea, Valerie plead guilty to one count endangering the health and life of a child, eight counts of obstructing justice, and two counts of conspiracy to commit obstructing justice. Her murder charges were dropped. She was sentenced to sixteen years in prison. She has since been paroled.

Scott remains incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center and continues to appeal his sentence. Scott has always maintained his innocence and firmly believes Valerie abused Joseph and caused the injuries that led to his death. He told me he never questioned her when they were together or when Joseph was in the hospital in January 2009 because he believed the reasons Valerie always provided about the injuries being accidental. He cites Valerie’s lack of emotion during the arrest and hearings as further evidence that she is to blame.

Only two people know what happened to Joseph on that fateful morning. Did Valerie abuse her son prior to leaving for work, causing injuries that would inflict days of suffering and eventually death on her child? Did Scott become irritated with Joseph early that morning and continue an alleged pattern of abuse towards the child he claims to have loved as his own? Valerie never pointed the finger at Scott, but Scott certainly is pointing the finger towards Valerie. Was Valerie an abused woman who would sacrifice her child to protect her boyfriend? Or was she a manipulative pathological liar who abused her child? Did Scott and Valerie both abuse Joseph? Who was thinking about what was in the best interest of Joseph?




References

My personal correspondence with Scott Endicott dated 4/10/21, 5/1/21, 5/18/21, and 5/31/21.

Illinois V. Schoolfield (2014) Appeal from the Circuit Court of Clinton County No. 09-CF-17

Illinois V. Endicott (2018) Appeal from the Circuit Court of Clinton County No. 09-CF-16

Wells V. Endicott (2013) IL. App (5th) 110570

Hillig, T. (2010) Lawyers spar over who killed child near Carlyle; St. Louis Post Dispatch; Retrieved at: Lawyers spar over who killed child near Carlyle | Law and order | stltoday.com

Tuft, C. (2009) Illinois mother, boyfriend charged with killing tot, 3; St. Louis Post Dispatch; Retrieved at: Illinois mother, boyfriend charged with killing tot, 3 (nospank.net)

Abuse Angels (Accessed 2021) Joseph Schoolfield; Retrieved at: Abuse Angels...: Joseph Schoolfield (typepad.com)

UPI (2009) Murder suspect gives birth in Illinois; UPI; Retrieved at: Murder suspect gives birth in Illinois - UPI.com

Margolin, L (1992) Child abuse by mothers’ boyfriends: why the overrepresentation?; Retrieved at: Child abuse by mothers' boyfriends: why the overrepresentation? - PubMed (nih.gov)

Ross, K. (2010) Endicott gets 60 years for toddler’s murder; The Breese Journal; Retrieved at: Clipping from The Breese Journal - Newspapers.com

Ross. K. (2010) Emotional testimony offered in motions hearing for murder case; The Breese Journal; Retrieved at: 22 Jul 2010, 1 - The Breese Journal at Newspapers.com

Ross. K. (2010) Text messages released in Endicott case; The Breese Journal; Retrieved at: Clipping from The Breese Journal - Newspapers.com

Ross. K. (2011) Schoolfield gets 16-year sentence for coverup of son’s beating; The Breese Journal; Retrieved at: 13 Jan 2011, A1 - The Breese Journal at Newspapers.com

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