SIKESTON, MO (Heartland News at 9) -
A mother and her boyfriend are facing murder charges in connection to the death of a one-year-old boy.
According to the Sikeston Department of Public Safety, officers were called to a home in the 600 block of South New Madrid Street at 1:50 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 12.
The caller said the toddler was not breathing.
When officers arrived, they began CPR and took the boy to the emergency room. He died at the hospital.
A detective on the case wrote that he was told the boy had suffocated by ingesting pepper and subsequently choked to death.
According to investigators, medical staff noticed injuries and bruising consistent with child abuse on the boy's body.
The detective on the case said he noticed several marks on the boy's arm and leg that appeared to be bite marks. He also reportedly had other bruising all over his body and both ears were severely bruised.
The child's mother, Kayla Williamson, 23, and her boyfriend, Louis Hollis, 31, were both arrested.
They both face charges of felony murder, child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.
During an interview with police, Williamson reportedly told investigators that her son likes to eat by himself, so she left him alone for about 15 or 20 minutes to eat. She claimed that when she went to check on her son, she found her boyfriend trying to perform CPR on the toddler.
According to the probable cause statement, Williamson also told a detective that she believed Hollis put pepper in her son's mouth. She went on to say that she'd smelled pepper on her son's breath before and that he'd recently thrown some pepper up. She also accused Hollis of putting soap in the boy's mouth.
During a second interview, Williamson reportedly admitted to putting pepper and soap in her son's mouth on a few occasions because he was biting or crying and being fussy.
The detective wrote that Williamson also said she would bite the boy on his hand or finger because he was biting her. She went on to say that she would "not cause the same type of injuries as Louis did."
Investigators say Hollis admitted to accidentally killing the 14-month-old by forcing a large amount of pepper into his mouth which caused him to suffocate and die.
The preliminary cause of death has not been determined. According to the Scott County Coroner, pathology results from the autopsy could take weeks to get back.
According to Sikeston DPS, a 3-month-old girl that was in the home was put into protective care.
Captain Jim McMillen said calls like this are difficult.
"These kind of calls are disturbing for a lot of first responders," he said. "It’s difficult, especially when you have children, to take a call like this. Everybody jumps on it and does the utmost they can do to try and help out. It’s tragic when it ends up like this. It’s difficult for officers, EMS, and responders to deal with sometimes. Especially if you have children, even if you don’t, it’s a troubling ordeal to undergo."
One neighbor said he hopes the accusations are not true.
"They recently moved in within the last month or so," he said. "They pretty much kept to themselves. Like I said, I could hear the baby crying quite often. I could hear the dad playing with the baby, or at least it sounded like he was playing with the baby.”
Williamson's bond is set at $50,000 while Hollis is being held on $100,000 bond.
A preliminary hearing for Williamson and Hollis is scheduled for April 12 at 3 p.m. in Benton, Mo.
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