EAGAN, Minn. (KMSP) - A foster mother and her boyfriend have been charged in connection to the death of a three-year-old Eagan boy, who died from blunt force trauma last year.
Charles Wayne Homich, 27, has been charged with three counts of second degree murder and two counts of first degree manslaughter, while Zeporia Fortenberry, 31, of Eagan was charged with two counts of manslaughter for child endangerment and knowingly permitting physical abuse.
According to the criminal complaint, on June 7, 2017 at 3:00 p.m. Eagan police responded to a report of a three-year-old boy who was not breathing. When responders arrived, they found the boy, Zayden Ace Lawson, was cold to the touch and had no pulse. Zayden was pronounced dead at Children's Hospital.
Investigators later learned Fortenberry left her children in Homich's care for the first time just one day prior while she worked the night shift. The following morning, Zayden was found on his bedroom floor with dark-colored vomit nearby and on his clothes. Throughout the day, he told Fortenberry his stomach hurt and threw up several more times. Noticing he was "acting lazy," she eventually laid him on a mattress next to her bed and called 911 when she saw he stopped breathing.
After completing an autopsy, officials determined Zayden's death was a homicide. His injuries included internal bleeding in his abdomen, diaphragm and intestines as well as bruising throughout his body.
A woman who also used to babysit Zayden told police Homich "would lose his cool" if he had to change the boy's dirty diaper.
Police found text exchanges between Fortenberry and Homich in the months before Zayden's death, describing to other possible instances of abuse. In one discussion, Fortenberry pleaded with Homich not to hurt Zayden and instead "tear up the bottom of his feet.. if anything."
Fortenberry had her first appearance April 12, with the judge setting a $100,000 bail. Authorities arrested Homich this weekend and he appeared in court on Monday, a hearing that ended with the judge setting a $1 million bail.
If convicted, Homich faces 40 years in prison and a $30,000 fine.