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Understanding a child’s death requires naming names

Friday, July 25, 2008 | 7:43 p.m. CDT; updated 11:51 a.m. CDT, Friday, August 1, 2008

COLUMBIA - Two-year-old Cortez Johnson of Columbia was burned, cut and bound for an unspecified time before he died last month from a blow to the head, according to a probable cause statement.

On Thursday, the Boone County Medical Examiner's Office ruled that the boy's death on June 25 was a homicide, a Columbia Police Department news release said.

The boy's parents, Horace Johnson, 25, and Keyonda Lumpkin, 26, were charged with the class A felony of second-degree murder. The bond on each warrant was set for $1 million bond, cash only.

The probable cause statement says Cortez had "numerous significant injuries to his body," including burns on his face and neck that appeared to be in different stages of healing. In addition, the medical examiner found a number of burns to his nose, buttocks, the underside of his lip and genitalia. The medical examiner also found additional burns and numerous cuts and bruises all over Cortez's body. Ultimately, the cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head.

The probable cause statement says that police found blood matching Cortez's DNA on the walls of the master bedroom, duct tape found under a mattress and "a harness type of contraption consisting of belts tied and fastened together."

Police also found "a ligature device consisting of a knotted rag and a phone cord" that tested positive for Cortez's DNA. Medical personnel found a deep cut on Cortez's left wrist and an older mark on his right wrist consistent with being caused by the ligature.

Various articles of clothing that appeared to be Cortez's size and stained with blood were recovered but have not undergone DNA testing yet.

Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight issued the arrest warrants for Horace Johnson and Lumpkin and said there is insufficient evidence to file charges of first-degree murder at this time. Knight later stressed that the investigation is ongoing.

Given the medical examiner's report issued Thursday, combined with the statements made to police by the boy's parents, the state was able to file charges of felony murder, which is considered second-degree murder in Missouri.

If someone commits a felony that somehow results in the death of someone else, the person who committed the felony can be charged with felony murder, Knight said.

The warrant states that the child's death resulted from the perpetration of the class C felony of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child "on or between June 16, 2008, and June 25, 2008."

The probable cause statement said Lumpkin admitted to leaving the residence on two occasions during this time without seeking help for the child. Johnson reportedly had at least three opportunities to remove the child from the home but did not do so.

Police spoke to two witnesses who visited the residence on June 16 and saw a naked Cortez being forced to stand in the corner with his wrists duct-taped behind his back. The witnesses "said Cortez appeared to be shaking and afraid" and told police "that when Cortez tried to turn his head away from the wall, Lumpkin would turn his head back towards the corner at Johnson's direction," according to the probable cause statement.

In Lumpkin's initial interview with investigators, she said Cortez had no injuries when he left on June 15 to visit family in Arkansas but had injuries when he was brought back to Columbia on the morning of June 25. Lumpkin later admitted that she, Horace Johnson and Cortez had all remained home on Elleta Boulevard during that time.

"Both of the defendants are accusing the other defendant of inflicting injuries on Cortez," Knight said.

The probable cause statement indicates that each suspect said the other "inflicted severe injuries on Cortez by hitting him with a belt and an open hand."

On June 25, Lumpkin, another woman and Johnson brought the unresponsive boy to University Hospital. Efforts to resuscitate him failed.

Lumpkin was arraigned via video conference from Boone County Jail on Friday afternoon. Her next court date was scheduled for Aug. 8, at which point the judge will reevaluate Lumpkin's bond and check to see whether she has found an attorney.

Horace Johnson is an inmate of the Missouri Department of Corrections. He was arrested June 26 in East St. Louis for a parole violation and was subsequently held in the St. Claire County Jail in Cahokia, Ill., before being extradited to Missouri.

Anyone with further information regarding this case is asked to submit tips on the CrimeStoppers Web site, 875tips.com, or to call Columbia Police at 874-7652.

 

 


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