BRADENTON - A 23-month-old toddler is dead and his mother’s boyfriend is behind bars, after deputies say the child died from severe abuse including a skull fracture.
Detectives arrested Montez McNeal, 25, Monday after they responded to an unresponsive child call in the 3300 block of 4th Street E in Bradenton. The child, Ethan Thompson, was transported to Manatee Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The mother had gone to the store and left the child in the custody of a 13-year-old, when she got a call from the teen saying that Ethan was hurt. The mother returned and found that he was not breathing.
After further investigation, detectives determined the child was physically abused by McNeal and the injuries from the abuse were the cause of his death.
The medical examiner listed the child's injuries: seven broken ribs in various stages of healing, deep contusions and other injuries to the genital area, a ruptured left kidney that was swollen to three times its normal size, and a skull fracture.
McNeal is the boyfriend of the child's mother. Five other children (ages six months to 12 years) living at the residence were removed and are in protective custody.
The mother has not been charged. The Florida Department of Children and Families said in a statement that the Manatee County Sheriff's Office will issue a report once its investigation of the death is complete.
The mother, in an interview with deputies, the mother said she had seen McNeal punch her children as if they were adults. The day Ethan died, she said that McNeal was upset that the boy had diarrhea and was not potty trained. The mother went to work, but was called about 11:45 p.m. by her oldest saying that Ethan was sick. She left work and got home to see a firefighter administering CPR.
Montez denied hurting the child during a call with deputies, but later at the sheriff's office confessed that the injuries were from him "rough playing around."
The head injury, Montez told deputies, occurred when the boy was having trouble breathing and Montez took him into the shower to spray him with water. Montez told deputies that boy slipped out of his hands and struck his head on the corner of the bathtub.
Ethan's breathing was shallow, so Montez said he called to the other children to call their mother and took Ethan to a firefighter who was outside.