If allegations of abuse are true, a judge said a 4-year-old boy lived in a "house of horrors" before his death as he sent criminal charges against the mother and her boyfriend to the grand jury on Tuesday.
Hamilton County Sessions Court Judge David Bales then set a $4 million bond for Kenneth Coleman and a $3 million bond for Patricia Brewer.
He also required that neither have any contact with the boy's surviving 3-year-old brother, who was hospitalized from his injuries.
On Dec. 19, 2011, Tyre'ke Evans, 4, died of liver lacerations and a swollen brain shortly after Brewer and Coleman brought him to Erlanger hospital, according to the medical examiner's report.
Coleman's attorney, Bill Speek, argued Tuesday that previous investigations on Brewer by the Tennessee Department of Children's Services show the children were abused before his client met Brewer.
"I think the records are going to indicate that Ms. Brewer was a lot more involved in the discipline and injuries to these children than we were able to tell in this preliminary hearing," Speek said after the hearing.
"A lot of the indications on the autopsy deal with scars; those scars are pre-existing injuries," Speek said.
Assistant District Attorney Charlie Minor objected multiple times to questions related to the Children's Services records. He cited state law and previous cases that prevent information in such records from being used in court.
Brewer's attorney, Lloyd Levitt, clarified that the records could be used in court if they contained evidence that could prove his client did not commit the crime.
Those records likely will be held under court seal, which is allowed by state law.
Speek said after the hearing that, if the Hamilton County grand jury indicts Coleman and Brewer, he'll request separate trials since a letter written by Brewer to Bales blames his client for the crime.
Chattanooga Police Department Detective Jay Evan Montgomery testified Tuesday that, when he interviewed both Coleman and Brewer at the hospital the night they brought Tyre'ke in, they each told him the little boy fell down stairs in the couple's home at 1940 Sherman St.
But in follow-up interviews, Brewer said she wasn't home when the alleged fall happened, and Coleman told her on the way to the hospital that the boy had tumbled down stairs.
Coleman also changed his story after more questioning by police, Montgomery testified, acknowledging that he'd hit Tyre'ke and the boy's 3-year-old brother with a belt for soiling the bed.
The 3-year-old was examined and treated at the hospital by medical staff, who noticed he acted lethargic.
Montgomery testified that medical staff reported the boy had three broken ribs, two cracked ribs, liver lacerations, damage to his kidneys and a fractured shoulder. The boy was released from the hospital a few days later and is now in the care of family members, authorities have said.
Minor told Bales the boys had been with Coleman and Brewer for the four days preceding Tyre'ke's death.
The boys' biological father, Demetrius Evans, last cared for them for a few hours on Thursday before they were returned to Coleman and Brewer, Minor said.
Tyre'ke died on the following Monday.