A 6-year-old Casper boy whose story about terminal brain cancer sparked an outpouring of community support earlier this year showed no signs of a tumor during a brain scan earlier this month, according to testimony during a court hearing Tuesday.
Dorian Layton’s condition was misdiagnosed as cancer, his mother’s attorney, Tracy Hucke, said in Natrona County Circuit Court.
The revelation came during a preliminary hearing for the boy’s mother, Krishelle Layton, 31, who faces fraud charges for allegedly exaggerating her son’s illness to solicit donations from community members. Layton received about $7,000 from various fundraisers since word about her son’s illness spread in late 2013, when he distributed gifts to sick children in Casper on Christmas Eve.
Layton said she was shocked when a June 5 brain image showed no trace of the white mass she has seen on her son’s scans since 2009, the year he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Doctors at Children’s Hospital in Colorado told Layton her son’s tumor had not been cancerous but was instead likely one of several other maladies, including a lesion possibly resulting from a bacterial infection that improved after Dorian was prescribed antibiotics for a cyst on his neck last year, she said.
Despite the news, the state is pushing forward with fraud charges.
“I don’t believe it was a misdiagnosis,” said Tina Trimble, a special agent who led the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation’s probe into Layton’s family. “I just think he got better.”
The family’s cancer doctor in Texas repeatedly confirmed the boy’s tumor was cancerous but said recently it was improving, Trimble testified Tuesday. The recent scan showing Dorian’s tumor-free brain supports that argument, she said.
Layton maintains if the tumor was healing, she didn’t know.
“I trusted the doctors,” she told the Star-Tribune on Tuesday. “That’s what I told other people it was. And now it turns out that the doctors are wrong.”
As recently as September, Dorian Layton’s brain scans showed a walnut-sized mass in his brain, she said. Layton said she will not know any new diagnosis until a medical report from the Colorado visit is finalized later this week.
Layton and her attorney argued with prosecutors Tuesday that Layton did not solicit donations or public attention, and that she never said her son’s cancer meant he was “on death’s door,” as prosecutors allege.
“I think it’s reasonable for any parent to believe a cancer could be terminal,” Hucke said.
District Attorney Michael Blonigen, on the other hand, said whether Layton solicited the donations was irrelevant.
From Layton and other news and social media, people received the impression that Dorian Layton was near death, even as the boy’s doctor told investigators his cancer was improving and death was not imminent. That’s the essence of obtaining goods under false pretenses, Blonigen said.
“People relied on that,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether she originally solicited them or not.”
At the end of the hearing Tuesday, Judge Michael Patchen ruled enough evidence exists for the case to move forward to district court.
Layton is expected to return to court at a later date for her arraignment. A trial date has not been set.