A foster mother in Minnesota and her live-in boyfriend face charges following the 2017 death of a 3-year-old in her care, PEOPLE confirms.
Zayden Ace Lawson was beaten to death last summer. Now, Zeporia Fortenberry, 31, and Charles Homich, 27, are facing manslaughter and murder charges for their alleged involvement in his homicide, according to charging documents provided to PEOPLE.
The arrests come 10 months after Zayden sustained “multiple blunt force injuries” on June 6, 2017.
It wasn’t until the next day that paramedics were summoned to Fortenberry’s Eagan, Minnesota, residence after the toddler was found lying on the floor of his bedroom in a pool of dark-colored vomit, the court filings indicate.
Fortenberry, the victim’s foster mother, was arrested Monday and charged with two counts of second-degree manslaughter. Homich, also arrested on Monday, is charged with three counts of second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree manslaughter.
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It is unclear if either defendant had a lawyer or if either had entered a plea.
The criminal complaint indicates that Fortenberry was allegedly aware Homich was abusing the child and saw him punching the boy six weeks prior to his murder.
She also allegedly told investigators she knew Zayden was afraid of Homich.
Fortenberry told detectives that prior to Zayden’s death, she left Homich alone with her two biological children and two foster kids — Zayden and his younger brother — so that she could work a night shift, according to the charging documents.
It was the first time she had Homich watch the kids.
She also allegedly told police that Homich “would lose his cool” if he had to change Zayden’s diaper.
Before he was found unresponsive, Zayden apparently complained of stomach pain and was sluggish, Fortenberry told police, it is alleged in the documents obtained by PEOPLE. Fortenberry called police when he stopped breathing, she said.
According to the criminal complaint, medical examiners found hemorrhaging in Zayden’s abdomen, which is “consistent with the fatal injuries being inflicted in the overnight hours of June 6-7, 2017,” when he was left in Homich’s care.
Investigators allegedly discovered a text from Homich to his mother days after Zayden succumbed to his injuries, saying he was “about to go to prison.” The complaint also alleges he asked his mother to take the blame for the boy’s death.