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Lakeland toddler dies, stepfather charged with murder

8:55 AM, Jun 17, 2010   |    comments
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Marcus Brown

Lakeland, FL - Two days after a 2-year-old boy died, police arrested his stepfather and charged him with First Degree Murder and Aggravated Child Abuse.

Authorities say the child was beaten with a belt 28 times over the course of a 24 hour period on Sunday.  A witness saw the stepfather, Marcus Brown, 29, beat the boy with a belt on his head, face and back repeatedly that day.

On Monday afternoon, detectives responded to a home at 1702 Fredricksburg Avenue after someone called 911 to say the boy wasn't breathing.

This isn't the first time authorities have investigated child abuse to the same boy.  It was just a couple of months ago when Deondray Ashe, 2, was admitted into the Lakeland Regional Medical Center with two fractured ribs.

Initially concerned, doctors there alerted police and DCF to possible child abuse. After an investigation involving interviews with doctors and the parents, Lakeland Police say the case was closed.

Supervisor of the Crimes Against Children Unit, Sgt. Gary Gross said, "There was a plausible explanation for the child's injuries.  There was no need to continue, because it was not going to be a criminal case."

Police will not say exactly what that plausible explanation was, because the incident could become part of the case against Brown.

It is not uncommon to close a case like this within a single day, considering how many calls come in for child abuse and neglect.  Sgt. Gross said, "We get referrals every day, anywhere from five to twenty referrals a day."

While Deondray's case was closed from a police perspective that day back in March, it doesn't mean it was an open and shut case for all agencies involved.

Sgt. Gross says on the day of the March incident, a DCF case worker was assigned to the case and even came out to the hospital.

10 Connects has made several calls to DCF to find out what kind of follow-up, if any, was done on DCF's part to ensure the boy's safety after that but no one from the agency returned our calls.

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Erica Pitzi, 10 Connects Reporter

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