MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (AP) — The mother of two boys found so badly beaten at a motel that emergency responders were left in tears was charged Friday with murder after one of them died.
Police alleged in a complaint that the 5-year-old who died was bound for about 22 hours in a wooded area and struck on his head and body, the Hamilton-Middletown Journal-News reported.
Investigators believe the boys were wrapped in sheets and beaten after one took food, said Middletown police Maj. Mark Hoffman, who called the case "horrific." He told the newspaper it was unclear whether weapons were used.
Officers responding to a 911 call Wednesday about an unresponsive child in a motel room found the boy with life-threatening injuries and discovered his 6-year-old brother also seriously hurt, in a bed and hidden under blankets, police said. Both were hospitalized.
Charges were upgraded Friday against their 26-year-old mother, Theresa Hawkins-Stephens, and a 29-year-old friend, identified by police as Rachael Bostian and in court records as Rachel Bostian. The women were jailed on one count of murder and two counts each of felonious assault and endangering children. A judge set each woman's bond at $1 million.
Bostian's mother, 56-year-old Ramona Bostian, also is charged with the assault and endangerment counts. Her bond is $500,000.
Their appointed lawyers couldn't be reached for comment. The office of Hawkins-Stephens' listed attorney, Juliette Gaffney Dame, said Dame was in court all day Friday and unavailable to take a call. A message was left for Ramona Bostian's lawyer, James Smith. A phone number for the third attorney, Charles McKinney, wasn't accepting messages.
Court records don't specify home addresses for the women, but Hoffman said they're from Licking County and had gone to Middletown in search of work.
They had camped in a clearing in the woods for several days and then were given a voucher from a social services agency to stay at the Parkway Inn motel, the newspaper reported.
In the 911 call, the younger Bostian said that the 5-year-old boy escaped a tent, disappeared for days and got "messed up" by three other boys and that the women didn't realize how badly he was hurt.
Police don't believe that narrative, Hoffman said.
He said no drugs were found at the campsite or in the women's motel room.