DETROIT (AP) — Police in a Detroit suburb said they investigated allegations of child abuse involving a boy who died this week but a request for charges in 2021 was turned down by prosecutors.
Ethan Belcher's mother and stepfather were charged with murder and other crimes Wednesday, three days after medics took the 5-year-old to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
An aunt, Ashley Belcher, told Detroit-area TV stations that police and child-welfare authorities were told about problems long before Ethan's death in Detroit.
“It was a house of terror,” Belcher said.
Lincoln Park police Chief Raymond Watters told Fox 2 that Ethan “suffered some minor injuries” in an incident in 2021 when the family was living in his community.
“An investigation was conducted, and a warrant request was sent to the Wayne County prosecutor’s office for review. Unfortunately, the warrant was denied," Watters said.
The prosecutor's office, however, said the warrant was returned to police for more work but never resubmitted.
The state agency in charge of child-welfare investigations declined to release any reports on Ethan and his siblings, citing state law. That shield was news to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“I didn't know that they were exempt from FOIA, so you're educating me right now,” Whitmer told WDIV-TV, referring to Michigan's public records law. “I think that perhaps there's an opportunity for us to take a real hard look at it and see what more we can do.”