Authorities say 4-year-old Lucas Webb died after he was kicked in the stomach by his stepmother.
Clinton County prosecutors charged Lucas's father, 34-year-old Justin Webb, and his stepmother, Melissa Webb, 32, with second-degree murder.
The boy was taken to Liberty Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The next day, doctors discovered during an autopsy that Lucas suffered from blunt force trauma to his abdomen.
CLINTON COUNTY, MO (KCTV) -
Authorities have arrested a father and stepmother after a 4-year-old boy died from being kicked in the stomach.
Clinton County prosecutors charged Lucas Webb's father, 34-year-old Justin Webb, and his stepmother, Melissa Webb, 32, with second-degree murder and felony child abuse. Both are being held at the Clinton County Jail on $500,000 bond each.
While Lucas couldn't speak for himself, his autopsy told police a lot.
Authorities say Lucas died after he was kicked in the stomach by his stepmother. And according to court documents, the boy was badly injured in August after he was kicked in the stomach by the woman.
"All he knew was pain and heartache, and we had no idea what was really going on in that house, how long that poor kid suffered," an emotional Ashley Sherwood, the boy's maternal cousin, said Thursday. "I can't believe someone would do this to an innocent little child who couldn't defend himself."
Melissa Webb's stepfather, Jim Jordan, told KCTV5 that his daughter is innocent of the allegations, saying Lucas fell during a recent hay ride.
"That kid would fall down and get bruised," Jordan said. "He bruised real easy. He was real slow. He would go to fall and he wouldn't even try to catch his self."
He said, "she ain't guilty" of killing the boy.
"Lies. These are all lies. My daughter loves those kids," Jordan said. "And anyone who believes this is crazy."
Sheriff's deputies went to the residence at 7306 SE Shoshone Dr. in Holt about 3 p.m. Monday after Melissa Webb called 911 because she said Lucas wasn't breathing.
The boy was taken to Liberty Hospital where he was pronounced dead. A medical examiner discovered during an autopsy that Lucas suffered from blunt force trauma to his abdomen. The injury was inflicted 12 to 24 hours before the boy died.
During the autopsy, the medical examiner discovered that Lucas had suffered broken ribs six to eight weeks ago.
According to court documents, Lucas on Aug. 24 stated that his stomach hurt after Melissa Webb kicked him in the stomach. "He also stated that his stepmom was mad when she did this," according to court documents.
Police declined to say who Lucas made those comments to, but authorities say there is no indication that anyone required by state law to report suspected child abuse failed to do so.
Maternal family members allege that state social workers had been repeatedly contacted but failed to act. The allegations are that Holt daycare teachers had contacted the Missouri Department of Social Services.
"They had reported abuse and nothing was done," Sherwood said. "I just don't understand how people can sit back and allow those things to happen ... if he was kicked in the stomach [in August and authorities knew] why did they let him go back to her, who did that to him?"
State officials have yet to respond to questions about their handling of this case.
Lucas attended Acorn Patch, an early childhood development center, in Kearney, MO. The director there would not say whether she or other staff members had contacted state social workers. However, she agreed teachers must report suspected child abuse to state authorities and said that her daycare takes compliance with the state law very seriously.
"Please know we are extremely saddened by the loss of our student and that the district staff is cooperating with all outside investigators," according to a statement from the childcare provider.
Sherwood said she hadn't seen her nephew in two years because Justin Webb prevented the boy's maternal relatives from seeing him. There had been custody issues.
"My whole family is just devastated by this. We want to know why something wasn't done before now. Why did a child have to die before someone took the time to finally investigate the situation," she said."This poor child. He was so beautiful."
Jordan said he believes officers made up the allegations.
"Them officers up there at the station, they're trying to set them up," Jordan said. "There ain't no doubt in my mind."
Sherwood said the boy's mother is devastated because she knew something was wrong and failed to get the attention of authorities.
"She's not doing well at all," Sherwood said. "She tried her hardest to get people to listen to her ... We want to know why nothing has been done before now."
Residents in Holt, a population of about 450, were disturbed to hear the heartbreaking news as word spread through the small northwest Missouri town.
"Being born and raised here, I chose to stay here and raise my kids here because I feel safe, and to know that someone in our area is capable of intentionally harming a child and killing a child is very disturbing and very heartbreaking," Holt resident Tara Huxtable said.
Copyright2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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