Local News

Fayetteville couple held on $1M bond in death of 7-year-old son

Posted October 3, 2019 7:50 p.m. EDT
Updated October 4, 2019 9:19 a.m. EDT

— The mother and step-father of a 7-year-old boy who was found dead Wednesday appeared in court Thursday as more information about the boy's death came out, raising questions about if it could have been prevented.

The mother of Ethan Bates, 24-year-old Evie Bates, was emotional as the judge read the charges against her.

She and the child's step-father, Saint Michael Edwards, 23, have been charged with felony intentional child abuse.

The couple was being held Thursday at the Cumberland County Jail, each on a $1 million bond. The judge told prosecutors that was excessive, but officials said charges could be upgraded to murder, pending an ongoing investigation in the boy's death.

"It was a deceased 7-year-old child, which is very tragic," said Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West. "And we'll continue to investigate. We'll look at all angles (and) any type of prior abuse that may have existed as well as the abuse that led to the death."

Ethan Bates was a first grader at Westarea Elementary School in Fayetteville.

According to court documents, he missed three days of school last week. His teacher reported to the school's social worker that the child had bruises on face.

Court documents also show that the boy had bruises that appeared to be healing and he had a laceration above his left eye, which was swollen.

Edwards told investigators the child caused the injuries to himself.

Law enforcement authorities don't believe that is true.

"There appeared to be some blunt force trauma that had been recent," West said.

The court documents also say a family member visiting from New York noticed Ethan's bruises.

When she confronted Bates and Edwards, she was threatened with a machete, according to court documents.

When asked for a comment, Lindsay Whitley, spokesman for the Cumberland County Public Schools, said it was an ongoing investigation and that they were unable to share additional information at this time.

But Brenda Jackson, director of the Cumberland County Department of Social Services, said her office had not received a child protective services report on Ethan prior to his death.

When asked by WRAL News if the child's life could've been saved had officials intervened, West said, "It's hard to say. There were very serious injuries when they responded and it appeared that those injuries had been inflicted within a pretty short period of time when the police arrived."

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