FRANKLIN, Ohio (AP) — A 4-year-old Ohio boy stopped breathing and died after his legs were put in scalding water as a punishment, police said Thursday, and his stepmother is charged with child endangerment.
The death of Austin Derreck Cooper has been ruled a homicide.
Franklin police said their initial investigation determined the hot water was a punishment, though they didn’t share details about why the child might have been disciplined.
“There’s nothing a 4-year-old could ever do to deserve a punishment like this,” Chief Russ Whitman told WLWT-TV.
The boy’s stepmother, Anna Ritchie, was being held on $350,000 bond, Whitman said. Her initial court appearance by video was scheduled for Friday. Ritchie had no attorney on record in Franklin Municipal Court.
The boy’s father told a 911 dispatcher the child got into a hot bath Tuesday night, then went to bed and was found unresponsive Wednesday morning at home in Franklin, roughly 35 miles north of Cincinnati.
“He got into a hot bath last night with my wife, and she thought he’d be OK. He said he wanted to go lay down in bed,” Robert Ritchie III told the dispatcher on a recording of the Wednesday call.
When the dispatcher asked if someone might try to resuscitate the boy, the father indicated it was too late.
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