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Two charged with death of 3-year-old boy

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TWO women were arrested and detained at the Department of Corrections on the charge of child abuse or neglect.

A 3-year-old boy under their care died in March.

Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo on Monday issued an arrest warrant for Lynn Fitial, 44, and Stacey Lani Laniyo, 37, and imposed a $25,000 cash bail.

In her affidavit, Department of Public Safety Detective Rosa Taman Rios stated that police responded to a reported unresponsive child on March 16, 2020 around 10:05 a.m.

Upon arrival at the residence, Rios was informed that the minor and his mother, Lynn Fitial, had been transported to the Commonwealth Health Center by ambulance.

Fitial told police that the boy had been ill and was given ibuprofen, which he vomited, “before he was observed to have stiffened.”

Dr. Rodney Klassen of CHC pronounced the boy’s time of death at 11:04 a.m. on the same day because of sudden cardiac arrest.

Rios stated that she arrived with a crime scene technician at the hospital and observed injuries on the boy consistent with abuse and took photos of bruises.

“There were healed scratch marks above his right buttocks area that extended downwards towards his left leg,” Rios said. “There were also healed scars on different areas of his face and a healing bruise mark in the center of his back along the spinal area. There were also stitch marks on his upper left forehead area and at the back of his head. His lower lip appeared split in two although the wound was healed.”

Rios said she was informed by a family member that Laniyo, a relative of Fitial and a household member, had beaten the 3-year-old boy with a broomstick on or around March 12.

The grandmother of the boy told Rios that on March 13, she saw the boy lying still and was barely moving. She said she also observed bruising on the boy’s arms and legs.

She then confronted Laniyo who smiled and said that she had spanked the boy with a broomstick and that the broomstick broke while she was spanking him.

Rios stated that additional witness information revealed that whenever the boy “did not behave” he would be locked in the bedroom of Fitial and Laniyo for “timeouts.”

“Investigation further revealed that on the days the boy was let out of the room after being locked inside, new bruises were observed on his body by family members/witnesses,” Rios said.

Witness information indicated that on many of these occasions Fitial was present inside the room, Rios added.

She said she  also conducted a forensic interview with a 13-year-old household member who told Rios that  she, the household member, had witnessed Laniyo elbowing the boy, biting his fingers, and punching him in the mouth.

The household member said she had taken photos of the injuries with her cellphone.

In an interview with the police, Laniyo described the boy as a child without fear and was “very naughty.”

Laniyo told police that she had recently spanked him with a tree branch to “discipline him because he was naughty.”

The Department of Public Safety requested, through the Attorney General’s Office, for an autopsy, which was conducted on March 24.

According to Dr. Philip Dauterman, the cause of death was obstruction of the airway due to pharyngitis and tracheitis, contributed by peritonitis due to gastroenteritis.

Dauterman said the child’s illness was either caused by a bacterial or a viral infection and was so far advanced at the time he was brought to the hospital Emergency Room.

He said the child was effectively dead when brought to the ER.

Dauterman also said that the boy’s symptoms would have been obvious to any reasonable parent or guardian and a cause for concern.

He noted that the boy’s stomach was empty. “This means the boy was either vomiting, not eating, or both. [This] would be readily apparent to any parent,” he said.

He added that the boy would have been struggling to breathe as his airway was very constricted.

Dr. Klassen said when the boy was admitted to the ER, he had no heartbeat and was not breathing.

Dr. Klassen said, “It was out of the ordinary for a child to be admitted to the ER in such a state when the cause of death was illness as opposed to drowning, injury, and/or accident.”

He said the boy’s jaw was “locked” by tightened  facial muscles, but it did not appear that it was caused by rigor mortis or tetanus.

Klassen said he had never seen anything like the boy’s tensed jaw, adding that the child’s illness would have been evident to parents.

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