31-year-old Zeporia Fortenberry was charged in Dakota County in the death of 3-year-old Zayden Lawson, a foster child in her care.  Her live-in boyfriend, 27-year-old Charles Homich was also charged in the case. Fortenberry was charged with two counts of second-degree manslaughter and Homich was charged with three counts of second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree manslaughter.

In the criminal complaint, it says that police were sent to a home in Eagan on June 7 of 2017. Upon their arrival they found 3-year-old Zayden Lawson lying on his back on the living room floor, unconscious and not breathing. Medics were unable to revive him. He was then transported to St. Paul Children's Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The complaint also says an autopsy performed the next day showed his death was due to multiple blunt force injuries and was ruled a homicide.

More information in the complaint says that the foster mother said Homich was caring for the children on the evening of June 6, after a friend had babysat Lawson overnight the night before. The foster mother reportedly said that friend had texted her to say that Lawson may have eaten some baking soda. But Lawson was reportedly behaving and eating normally on June 6th.

The next day though the Foster mother said Lawson vomited a couple of times during the day and "was acting lazy."

Eventually, she said Homich told her to call 911 when she noticed the boy wasn't conscious or breathing.

The complaint goes on to talk about an alleged history of abuse between Homich and Lawson. Homich would get very upset over Lawson's dirty diapers, reportedly hitting him in the head once and Homich told a co-worker that he once punched Lawon in the stomach and his point came out black. In the complaint it says when the coworker told Homich to bring Zayden to a doctor, charging documents say Homich feared, "the doctor would see his bruises and Lawson is old enough to tell him who gave him the bruises."

The complaint states the Ramsey County Medical Examiner analyzed a hemorrhage found in Lawson's abdomen and their findings "are consistent with the fatal injuries being inflicted in the overnight hours of June 6-7, 2017," the night Lawson was in Homich's care.

Fortenberry's next court appearance will be April 25.  She lives in the home with her two biological children as well as Lawson and a younger brother.

Dakota County Sheriffs office photos
Dakota County Sheriffs office photos

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