Saturday, April 21, 2001

Mom's boyfriend accused in toddler's death

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MIDDLETOWN — The investigation of a 2-year-old boy's death has resulted in a murder warrant for his mother's boyfriend — and a warning to area child-care providers.

        E.Y. Lawson, 22, of Middletown, is accused of causing the injuries that led to the death of Christopher Long. The boy died Tuesday at Children's Hospital Medical Center.

        “The child suffered from multiple head injuries that resulted in his death — and he received those injuries while in the care of Mr. Lawson,” Middletown Police Maj. Mike Bruck said Friday, hours after the child's funeral.

        Mr. Lawson's attorney, Jerry M. Bryant, said he hopes to locate his client and accompany him to police headquarters Monday afternoon. Mr. Lawson is not the baby's father.

        “He's very distraught right now, not only over the fact that the charges were filed, but over this child's death,” Mr. Bryant said Friday. “He loved that child ... We intend to enter a not-guilty plea.”

        Middletown police have arrested Mr. Lawson nine times since 1997 on a variety of traffic and alcohol offenses, records show.

        Some time before Christopher's death, a child-care provider had noticed signs of possible abuse — but didn't report those concerns to the Butler County Children Services Board until she learned Christopher had died, authorities said Friday.

        In response, Butler officials plan to send letters reminding the county's 87 licensed day-care providers that Ohio law requires them to tell Children Services about any inkling of abuse.

        Christopher's death also could be among the first cases investigated by a new countywide Child Fatality Review Board. Hamilton County already operates such a team. A new state law requires counties to form similar teams this year. The groups' goal: To see whether anything could have been done to prevent deaths of children ages 17 and younger.

        The woman who regularly watched Christopher was grief-stricken over his death and has wondered whether the child might have been saved if she had reported her earlier suspicions, said Kathy Vallance, executive director of the Butler County Children Services Board.

        “I feel for this lady, because she loved this little boy. She cared for him for two years. ... My heart is going out to her as well as the family in this case.” Ms. Vallance declined to name the woman.

        Attempts to reach Christopher's mother, Candy Long, have been unsuccessful.

        The day-care provider had discussed her concerns with Ms. Long, but apparently didn't realize the importance of her observations until it was too late, Ms. Vallance said.

        Bruce Jewett, director of the Butler County Department of Job and Family Services, said the woman had been a longtime child-care provider who, like the other 86 licensed providers in Butler County, had received training on their legal obligation to report suspected abuse, Mr. Jewett said.

        Ms. Vallance encourages the general public to report concerns of child abuse to the agency at 887-4055.

        In Christopher's case, callers had reported signs of neglect — a messy house, Ms. Vallance said — “but we never had any allegation of physical abuse on these children. If we did, we would take the police and see those kids.” Christopher's three siblings have been placed in the temporary custody of an aunt.


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