The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

October 31, 2011

Police: Toddler found dead had been left at home alone

JOPLIN, Mo. — A Joplin man is accused of leaving his girlfriend’s 18-month-old son home alone in a crib while he kept an appointment at a methadone clinic.

Police say the toddler, Emjay Corn, died sometime Saturday morning at his home at 1322 S. Pennsylvania Ave.

The cause and manner of the boy’s death remain under investigation, with an autopsy conducted Monday afternoon in Columbia. The Joplin Police Department did not release the name of the child until notification of family was completed on Monday.

Eric J. Hicks, 28, boyfriend of the child’s mother, Nichole Hall, 32, was arrested about 3 p.m. Saturday and charged with felony child endangerment. Police Cpl. Chuck Niess said Hicks, who is not the boy’s father, is accused of leaving him alone in a crib in the house.

“Apparently, he went to a medical appointment, and left him there and then came back,” Niess said.

Niess said the boy’s mother was not at home Saturday morning. He said he could not divulge where she was at the time because of health information privacy laws. She is not charged with any offense, he said.

A probable-cause affidavit filed in Jasper County Circuit Court alleges that Hicks left the house to seek treatment at a methadone clinic. Methadone is a drug used in the treatment of certain drug addictions. The affidavit states that Hicks told police he was gone about an hour.

Niess said the medical condition of the child upon the boyfriend’s return remains under investigation. He declined to comment on whether the boy was alive when Hicks got back. He said investigators have yet to ascertain the time and circumstances of the death.

“That’s what we’re doing an autopsy for,” he said.

The case has not been determined to be a homicide, Niess said. Accidental or medical reasons for the death remain possible, he said.

Police officers went to the home at 10:45 a.m. Niess said he did not know what prompted officers to go there. The dispatch log for the day on the Police Department’s website does not show a call to the address.

Niess said emergency medical technicians arrived after police officers. But the child already had died by the time officers arrived, he said. He said no other children lived in the home.



Bond

ERIC J. HICKS remained in custody Monday night at the Jasper County Jail in Carthage, with his bond set at $10,000. He is charged with felony child endangerment.

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