Teen charged in 2016 murder of Marion County toddler

Teen charged in 2016 murder of Marion County toddler

June 18th, 2018 by Staff Report in Breaking News

Updated at 9:04 p.m. on Monday, June 18, 2018.

After almost two years, a Chattanooga teenager has been charged with the abuse and murder of a South Pittsburg, Tennessee, toddler in 2016, according to a news release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Two-year-old Zayne Harper was injured while his mother's 17-year-old boyfriend at the time was watching him, authorities said in early stages of the investigation.

On Monday, juvenile petitions were served on the suspect, charging him with first degree murder and aggravated child abuse, according to the news release.

Because he was a juvenile at the time of the offense, authorities are not releasing the suspect's name. He is being held at the Marion County Jail on an open court bond, according to the TBI news release.

The TBI and South Pittsburg Police Department have been investigating the toddler's injuries since September 2016, the news release states. 

Harper was taken to a hospital in Jasper, Tennessee, by his mother, Essence Robinson, and her minor boyfriend via a private vehicle, according to an autopsy document

But the boy was "slipping in and out of consciousness and eventually stopped breathing. He was resuscitated and quickly transferred to Erlanger Hospital," according to the medical examiner's case summary.

The toddler was treated for massive internal injuries before he died. His death was later ruled a homicide.

The autopsy report detailed more than 30 injuries spread over the child's body from head to toes. 

There were "multiple acute blunt force injuries of the head, neck, torso and extremities," and noted "cerebral edema" and a "possible healing fracture of the left tibia," according to the document.

The report also stated the suspect told officials the toddler had a wreck on his tricycle the day before he died.

Now, nearly two years later, investigators gathered enough information to indicate the mother's then-boyfriend was responsible for the injuries resulting in Harper's death.