The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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July 2, 2012

Affidavit: Boyfriend delayed telling mother of young child’s fatal injury

SENECA, Mo. — Zachary Roland allowed several potentially critical minutes to slip past before informing his girlfriend that something was seriously wrong with her toddler son who he had dropped on the bathroom floor, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

Roland, 20, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 22-month-old Bradley Jacob Beck.

The boy died Thursday after suffering apparent trauma to his head inside the home on Holly Road north of Seneca, where he lived with his mother, Ashley D. Seymour, 22; her boyfriend, Roland; and a sister. The cause of death officially remains under investigation, but preliminary findings of an autopsy suggest that the child died of severe head injuries, according to the Newton County coroner.

An affidavit filed Monday in Newton County Circuit Court states that Keith Norton, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, found a 4- by 4-inch patch of blood between the scalp and skull of the child and believes that the injury must have been caused by a fall or similar form of trauma.

The affidavit states that Norton also found numerous injuries to other parts of the boy’s body, including bruises to his face, back and legs.

Roland allegedly admitted to an investigator that he hit the boy with his open hand while giving him a bath in a bathtub. The affidavit states that Roland said the child started whining, and he slapped his face.

The affidavit states that Roland acknowledged that he then picked the boy up, and the child fell from his arms, hitting his head on the bathroom floor. While the document does not state that Roland admitted dropping the child on purpose, the complaint filed against him alleges that is what took place.

The boy became unresponsive after he fell, Roland reportedly told the investigator, and he carried him into a bedroom and put him on a bed. He picked up the boy’s sister from the same bed and took her into another bedroom where their mother was. He stayed there with her and the girl for what he initially estimated was five to 10 minutes before returning to the room where the boy was, according to the affidavit. During that time, Roland never told the mother that he had dropped her son or that the child had become unresponsive, the document states.

Roland later changed his account, limiting his length of stay in the room with the mother to just three or four minutes, according to the affidavit. The mother estimated the length of time Roland spent there with her at five to 10 minutes, according to the affidavit.

Roland told the investigator that when he went back to the room where the boy was, he acted as if he had just discovered the child in an unresponsive state.

Seymour called 911 about 5 p.m. Thursday and reported that her son was not breathing. The boy was unresponsive and not breathing when emergency personnel arrived at the home minutes later. He was taken to Freeman Hospital West in Joplin, where he was pronounced dead.

$1 million bond

ZACHARY D. ROLAND remained in custody Monday at the Newton County Jail in Neosho with his bond set at $1 million.

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