By Jeff Lehr
A six-month investigation into the death of a 2-year-old boy has culminated in a Joplin man being charged with murder.
A warrant was issued Wednesday for the arrest of Byron D. Lang, 19, on a charge of second-degree murder. A patrol officer made the arrest at 9 p.m. Thursday during a traffic stop at 31st Street and Maiden Lane.
Lang is accused of causing the death last year of Kyler DeShawn Jones. Lt. Mike Hobson, of the Joplin Police Department, identified Lang on Friday as the man who had brought the boy unconscious and not breathing at 11:03 a.m. on Sept. 2 to St. John’s Express Care at 1313 S. Range Line Road.
Hobson said Lang told nursing staff at the urgent-care clinic that the boy simply collapsed and started having problems breathing while in his care. But, as nurses disrobed the boy for emergency treatment, severe and extensive bruising was noted on his abdomen, Hobson said.
The child was rushed to the emergency room of St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin, where he was pronounced dead 14 minutes later.
An initial autopsy conducted in Springfield was described by police as “less than conclusive” with respect to cause of death. A second autopsy conducted by a medical examiner in Columbia determined the cause of death to be blunt-force trauma to the abdomen and head, and a lengthy investigation ensued.
“It took a while to get the charges, but we never stopped,” Hobson said.
He said part of the problem was that the boy’s mother, Meagan Jones, left him in the care of Lang and his girlfriend in their apartment at 2525 E. 32nd St. a couple days before his death. He said the mother had left the child in their care on prior occasions for as long as a week. The boy’s father, Terry Miller, was working out of state at the time.
Hobson said investigators knew that Lang’s girlfriend left for work early on the morning of the day in question. With the help of the medical examiner, they had to narrow the time frame for infliction of the injuries to determine who caused them, he said.
Investigators now believe Lang “was the only one who could have been with Kyler when the injuries occurred,” Hobson said.
Detectives also had to wait on results of tests conducted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s crime lab on some physical evidence they gathered, he said. He declined to comment on what sort of physical evidence exists.
Hobson also declined to say if the child had any broken bones. He told the Globe that investigators are uncertain if any objects other than hands and feet were used to inflict the blows the child suffered. He said the medical examiner believes that no single blow caused the toddler’s death. Instead, it was “a totality of all the wounds” that took his life, Hobson said.
By Jeff Lehr
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