FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Fayetteville police on Thursday announced upgraded charges for the mother and stepfather of a boy found dead inside his home in October 2019.
Ethan Bates, 7, was found dead inside his home in the 1500-block of Sisal Drive after police responded to the home at 4:42 a.m. on Oct. 2, 2019.
The child’s mother, Evie Loretta Bates, 24, was charged with felony intentional child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury. She was taken to the Cumberland County Detention Center and given a $1 million bond.
The boy’s stepfather, Saint Michael Edwards, 23, was charged with felony intentional child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury. He was also given a $1 million bond.
With Thursday’s announcement, Edwards is now charged with first-degree murder. That charge is in addition to his previous charge. He is now being held without bond.
Bates has now been additionally charged with accessory after the fact of first-degree murder. That charge adds an additional $10,000 to her $1 million bond.
Both suspects were still being held in the Cumberland County Detention Center when their new charges were announced.
According to a 2019 arrest warrant for Edwards, the little boy was “covered from head to toe in bruises” and “some bruises appeared to be older and healing and there were multiple fresh bruises throughout his body.”
The document went on to say that “There was a laceration above [Ethan Bates’] left eye and his eye was swollen. [Ethan Bates] appeared to have broken bones in his hand and foot.”
Through their investigation, police learned that Ethan Bates missed three days of school the week before his death. His teacher had also reported bruises on the child’s face to the school social worker, the warrant said.
Cumberland County Department of Social Services director Brenda Jackson told CBS 17 last year that “Cumberland County DSS had not received a child protective services report on the 7-year-old prior to the child fatality.”
Edwards told police that he was present during Evie Bates’ 911 call and provided the dispatcher with the address. He was not at the scene when police arrived, though.
Once police located Edwards and questioned him about the boy’s death, he told them that Ethan Bates caused the injuries to himself, according to the warrant.
Edwards went on to tell detectives that the boy was “always with him and [Evie] Bates or he is at school,” documents show. “Besides going to school, [Ethan Bates] is never away from Edwards or [his mother].”
Both Evie Bates and Edwards were the sole caretakers of the 7-year-old, although Edwards was not the biological father, according to police.
According to the police document, detectives “received information from a family member of Bates, who advised, while visiting from New York, she observed [Ethan Bates] covered with bruises and when she confronted Bates and Edwards, she was threatened with a machete.”
The little boy’s death shocked neighbors, police, and those at his school.
Shortly after Bates’ death, CBS 17 asked Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West if officials could have done something more in this case.
He said he can’t comment on the details of the pending investigation, but said they are looking into the past allegations.
“We’ll look at all angles, any type of prior abuse that may have existed, as well as the abuse that led to the death.”
“If you see something say something and leave it to the authorities to make the proper decisions after that, if somebody thinks they’ve seen child abuse they need to report it because it could potentially prevent something like this from happening you never know,” West said.
Crystal Smith said the boy next door would do sweet things like check the mail for her.
“He was just so helpful and such a lively little boy,” Smith said. “He was always so happy and always smiling.”
Smith couldn’t believe the news that her sweet neighbor is gone.
“I can’t even fathom this. I’m flabbergasted,” Smith said. “I really don’t understand. I’m trying to figure out exactly what happened. Why did all this happen?”
“It’s one of those things that stick with you for a lifetime, and those memories cannot be erased. And you just feel very upset and very sorry for the child and for the family of the child, as well,” added Fayetteville Police Officer Jeremy Strickland.
Ethan Bates was a first-grade student at Westarea Elementary.
An official statement from Cumberland County Schools said, “We were saddened to learn about the death of Ethan Bates, a first-grade student at Westarea Elementary School, and we extend our heartfelt sympathy to his family. The district’s crisis team is on standby to provide additional support to students and staff at the school.”