By Emily Younker
SENECA, Mo. —
A 20-year-old Seneca man has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of his girlfriend’s 22-month-old son.
The Newton County prosecutor on Saturday filed the charge against Zachary Roland. Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland said Roland is being held in the Newton County Jail on a $1 million bond.
Copeland said Roland told investigators during questioning that he had hit the young boy Thursday when the two were in the bathroom of the home he shared with the child’s mother.
“The suspect, when he was arrested last night, told investigators that he was showering with this child, and the child started crying,” Copeland said Saturday. “He says he picked the child up, struck the child with his hand, and when he struck the child, the child fell out of his hand and fell on his head there in the tub.”
Copeland said that “evidence of trauma to the child’s head” prompted an investigation into the boy’s death.
The sheriff declined to release either the child’s name or the mother’s name, pending notification of family members. He said he anticipated releasing that information on Monday.
Mark Bridges, the Newton County coroner, identified the baby as Bradley Jacob Beck; he said he was unsure of the mother’s name.
Bridges said the cause of the boy’s death was still unofficial Saturday, pending further tests.
“Unless the pathologist finds something else under microscopic or toxicology tests, I’ll list the cause of death as severe head injuries,” he said.
Bridges, citing the ongoing tests, declined to give further information about the nature of the boy’s injuries.
“He died from head injury, but how he got them — we know some of the facts, but other facts ... I just don’t know for sure,” he said. “We’re just waiting on some other tests.”
The boy’s mother called 911 at about 5 p.m. Thursday to report that her son was not breathing, Copeland previously told the Globe.
Emergency personnel responded to her home on Holly Road north of Seneca and found the boy unresponsive. He was taken to Freeman Hospital West, where he was pronounced dead, Copeland said.
Roland was arrested at about 6 p.m. Friday after an autopsy on the boy’s body was conducted in Springfield, the sheriff said.