The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

July 3, 2012

Bruises reported on young Seneca boy 10 days before his death

Bruises on the legs of Bradley J. Beck were reported to the state’s child-welfare system 10 days before the toddler died of head trauma that authorities say was inflicted by his mother’s boyfriend.

Sheriff Ken Copeland acknowledged Tuesday that a Newton County deputy was dispatched to Freeman Hospital West in Joplin the afternoon of June 18 regarding a boy being treated for a staph infection on his lips.

The sheriff confirmed that the 22-month-old boy was Bradley Beck, who died last Thursday of head trauma suffered inside his home north of Seneca. Zachary D. Roland, the 20-year-old boyfriend of the boy’s mother, Ashley Seymour, is charged with second-degree murder in the child’s death.

The deputy met with an investigator from the Children’s Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services on June 18 at Freeman West regarding two bruises that the hospital’s staff reported finding on the boy’s legs, the sheriff said.

Copeland said the mother told the state investigator that her son had been with a relative in Stotts City the previous weekend and must have incurred the bruises there. With no reason to believe that any abuse had taken place in Newton County, the deputy left the hospital with the understanding that the Children’s Division would follow up on the matter in Lawrence County, the sheriff said.

Copeland said the state investigator later told the deputy that she was satisfied with the relative’s explanation that the boy got the bruises while playing with his 3-year-old sister.

The sheriff said he does not know if the Children’s Division ever conducted a study of the boy’s home in Newton County. He said deputies were never called to assist in any investigation by the agency at the address.

Copeland confirmed that deputies responding to the 911 call last Thursday found the home to be filthy, with debris strewn about and dog feces on the floor. He said the mobile home also was extremely hot, with just the living room being cooled to any extent by a lone air conditioner.

“It was quite clear that home was not fit for children to live in,” Copeland said.

He said the boy’s sister was removed and placed in state protective custody at that time.

According to a probable-cause affidavit filed in Newton County Circuit Court, Roland admitted to investigators that he slapped the boy when he started whining while he was giving him a bath on Thursday. He told investigators that he dropped the boy, and he struck his head on the floor of the bathroom and became unresponsive.

The forensic pathologist who conducted an autopsy found a large patch of blood between the boy’s scalp and his skull, and bruising on his legs, back and face.

No interview

THE GLOBE’S EFFORTS to obtain a phone interview through Rebecca Woelfel, communications director for the Missouri Department of Social Services, were unsuccessful Tuesday. Any questions the Globe had could be emailed to her, she said.

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