A prosecutor said Friday he will seek the death penalty against a Cincinnati father accused in the abuse death of his 2-year-old son, who was recently returned to his birth parents from foster care in a decision that triggered outrage and an independent review of the county's social services agency.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters announced grand jury indictments of Antrone Smith, 29, on counts of aggravated murder, murder and felonious assault. Smith was in jail Friday on $500,000 bond. A message seeking comment left for his attorney was not immediately returned.
DeMarcus Jackson's mother, 22-year-old Latricia Jackson, has been indicted on a child endangering count that could carry a possible sentence of up to three years in prison upon conviction. No attorney was listed for her in court records and no court appearance had been scheduled.
Deters said DeMarcus suffered numerous injuries, including multiple bruises and cuts, and an untreated burn, before he died Oct. 21 from blunt force to his abdomen. He said the child was "subjected to torture and abuse" and died painfully.
"It is so heartbreaking to see little kids treated in this manner," Deters said. "This is a very bad case."
DeMarcus's death echoes the 2006 child abuse case that shocked people in this region _ the death of 3-year-old Marcus Fiesel after being left alone bound inside a closet. His foster parents were convicted of murder and are serving life sentences.
In the current case, the little boy had been reunited with his birth parents in August after nearly 2 years in foster care.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine called DeMarcus' case "a horrible, horrible human tragedy." DeWine said he didn't want to discuss specifics, but said in general, the top priority must be the child's safety.
"While reunification is the goal and we should try to reunite families, the safety of the child ... is always paramount," he said.
The director of county Job and Family Services, Moira Weir, and county commissioner Greg Hartmann ordered an independent system-wide review of the case. Ross Evans, a Cincinnati attorney, will investigate.
County authorities say they are required to make reasonable efforts to reunify a child with his family, after steps including a court-approved plan involving case workers, the child's court advocate, parents and others. Four other children who were living in the home were placed this week with the county agency.
"Reports on the family's progress were all positive and everyone was in agreement on reunification," Weir said in a statement. "Because of the serious nature of this incident, I feel it is best to have someone look into whether, based on the information available, the right decisions were made."
The boy's foster mother blasted the agency.
"I tried to save him," Latasha Tye, 40, told The Cincinnati Enquirer earlier this week. "The county failed my baby. I told them he wasn't ready to go. All he wanted was me."