After a 5-year-old boy allegedly stole food, he was wrapped in a blanket, “severely beaten” for about 22 hours by his mother and later died, according to Middletown police.
Alexander Stephens died about 8 a.m. Friday at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, less than two days after the alleged attacks took place in a wooded area on Verity Parkway near the Great Miami River, police said.
His 6-year-old brother remained Friday evening at Cincinnati Children’s Liberty Campus in Liberty Twp.
After the boy died, charges were upgraded against two of the women.
The boys’ mother, Theresa Hawkins-Stephens, 26, was charged with murder, two counts of felonious assault and two counts of endangering children. Her friend, Rachael Bostian, 29, also was charged with the same offenses.
Middletown Visiting Judge Greg Howard set their bond at $1 million and appointed them an attorney.
Charges of felonious assault and child endangering remained the same against the third woman accused in the alleged attacks — Ramona Bostian, 56.
Her bond was set at $500,000 and she was appointed an attorney.
All three women told Howard that they had no jobs, no money in the bank and couldn’t afford to hire an attorney.
Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said he had no plans to present the case directly to a grand jury. He will instead have a preliminary hearing in open court.
“I want the public to see the facts of this case,” Gmoser said. “If anything can benefit from this horrific case, it is the awareness of child abuse.”
The evidence in this case as he knows it at this time does not raise the alleged crimes to the death penalty level, he said.
“The motivations in this case, as misguided and horrific as they are, are not clear,” Gmoser said, “The abuse is extreme, but the law is specific on death penalty specifications. It requires prior calculation and design and a purpose to kill”
According to court documents, the two boys were tied up with blankets Tuesday for “stealing food.”
“After tying the boys up the (defendants) began punching and slapping the children in the face and about the body,” court records state. “The children were left tied up for over 24 hours and were given no food or water … this incident occurred in the wooded area near the river on North Verity Parkway.”
Middletown police served search warrants at Room 130 at the Parkway Inn where the women and children checked into on Wednesday morning after receiving a voucher from an area charity.
A 1997 purple Dodge station wagon belonging to one of the women was also searched.
Seized by police from the vehicle were: a tent, box with wood sticks, bag with brown blanket, small tennis shoes, a black jacket and plastic bags.
Theresa Hawkins-Stephens on Thursday told police “she not only struck the children with her hand, she also used a black belt and a piece of wood which was located at the Parkway Inn …” according to court records.
Seized by police from the hotel room were: cell phones, a belt and yellow cable, blankets, miscellaneous papers, and an identification card and credit cards belonging to Rachel Bostian.
Four cats were also left in the room. They have been taken into the care of Josephs Legacy, an animal rescue group. Volunteers were called by an employee of the motel about the felines, according to Meg Melampy, founder of the rescue group.
Melampy said the cats are in good health and one is ready to deliver a litter anytime.
Maj. Mark Hoffman from the Middletown Division of Police said no drugs were found at the campsite or the hotel room. The boys’ father contacted Middletown police Thursday morning after watching a TV report about the incident, Hoffman said. They don’t believe he was involved in the alleged beatings.
Police have said this has been a difficult case to investigate because they know so little about the two children and three women.
According to police, the women came from Licking County to Middletown apparently looking for work.
When Alexander Stephens stopped breathing Wednesday night, Rachael Bostian called 911 from room 130. She said the boy ran away from the tent area for several days, was beaten by three boys, then returned to the tent. The women didn’t realize the severity of his injuries, Bostian told the 911 dispatcher.
Middletown police have said they don’t believe that story.
Pastor Lamar Ferrell called the scene at the hotel the “most wrenching” in his 12-year career as a chaplain for the Middletown police and fire departments.
“There was a lot of just sadness, a lot of tears,” he said.“Just the brutality of what had taken place. It was a hopeless situation that was very tragic.”