NORTH NEWTON — A 19-month-old boy had a broken collarbone, a broken lower leg and bruises from head to toe.
But no one directly told local authorities that something was wrong in the child's life until after he died, local law enforcement officials said Monday.
They announced that a man who had been living at the 19-month-old's home was being held on suspicion of murder in the toddler's death on Saturday.
A woman who said she has known the suspect for years said he is a boyfriend of the 19-month-old's mother.
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About a month ago, a neighbor called a national hotline for missing or abused children to report concerns about noises — including shouting — she heard at the 19-month-old's duplex in North Newton, authorities said.
She said she was told that the local offices of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, which helps investigate child abuse, would be contacted, North Newton Police Chief Ray Classen said Monday. There is no record of the local SRS office receiving such information, he said.
"It's very upsetting. Had we been notified, we could have been looking into these reports," Classen said.
The lesson of the tragedy, he said, is: "If there's any question in your mind, contact authorities. We must protect these children."
The woman who said she has known the suspect for years identified herself as the grandmother of the suspect's young children. She said she couldn't believe it when she heard he was suspected of harming a child. She described him as loving toward children.
"I will say he is innocent until proven guilty," she said. "I will pray to God that the truth comes out."
"I want whoever did this to this baby to pay for it," she said.
"And my heart hurts ... for everyone who has been affected."
Classen and Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton referred to the case as a "suspicious death" at a briefing for reporters in Newton.
The boy had numerous injuries — old and new — throughout his body, Walton said. The injuries include at least two broken bones — in his left collarbone and in his right lower leg.
"Literally, the baby had bruising from its head to its toes,'' Walton said.
Authorities gave this timeline:
A 911 call to emergency dispatchers came from the man now in custody at 3:15 p.m. Saturday. It was a report of a child not breathing.
The child was pronounced dead at 4:24 p.m. at Newton Medical Center.
When the call came in, the mother was at a baby shower in Wichita, authorities said. She had her 6-week-old daughter with her. The infant is now staying with a relative, authorities said.
If the case is ruled a homicide, it would be the first in North Newton since it was incorporated in 1938, Classen said. It would be the first child homicide in Harvey County since 2001, Walton said.
About a dozen investigators from the Harvey County Sheriff's Office, North Newton Police Department and Newton Police Department are working the case. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is expected to join the investigation.
An autopsy on the child has been completed. The results, including the cause of death, will be key to deciding which charges could be filed.
The mother said that the child had fallen down four to five carpeted stairs the day before the 911 call, Walton said. But that kind of injury is not consistent with the injuries the child had when he was taken to the hospital, he said.
He said the suspect had no explanation for the boy's injuries.
The family, from Peabody, had lived in the two-story duplex since late November or early December.
While executing a search warrant there, investigators seized marijuana and drug paraphernalia from the residence, Walton said.
"It's not only a tragedy for this child's family, but a tragedy for our community,'' he said.