Stepdad beat 2-year-old to death with belt, police say
A man was arrested today on charges he fatally beat his 2-year-old stepson, who had almost 30 injuries to his head, face and upper back, police said. Investigators believe Deondray Ashe was beaten twice with a belt Sunday evening. They say an adult witness was present when the boy, who had special medical needs, was beaten. The stepfather, 29-year-old Marcus Brown, was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse charges, Lakeland police said. He was being held without bail today at Polk County Jail. Investigators went to a home at 1702 Fredericksburg Ave. after someone called 911 to say the toddler wasn't breathing, authorities said.Deondray was declared dead at the scene. According to police records, Brown twice beat the child with a belt between 6 and 9 p.m. Sunday, "then put in motion a series of lies and a false alibi in an effort to conceal his actions.'' An autopsy determined the boy died of blunt trauma to the head, police said. Three other children who lived in the home, a 2-month-old, 5-year-old and 10-year-old, are in protective custody, Lakeland police Sgt. Terri Smith said. "There is no indication any of these children have been abused," Smith said. The mother, Ina Marcia Brown, 33, was not charged in the case. Brown is the stepfather of Deondray, but it's unclear what relationship he had to the other children in the home, Smith said. In late March, authorities investigated a report of child abuse involving Deondray, after he suffered two rib fractures, Smith said. The medical staff at Lakeland Regional Medical Center initiated the report, Smith said. Deondray's parents "provided a plausible explanation for the cause of the injuries that could not be discounted based on the medical examination and evidence,'' police reported. Smith said Deondray was born three months premature and was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, then transferred to Sable Palms, a Largo rehabilitation center. He was placed in the care of his mother for the first time in October, Smith said. Deondray had 20-hour per day medical care until March, when Medicaid benefits ran out, Smith said.