Cumberland County detectives have arrested and charged 24-year-old Donald Kerns III with felony child abuse.
Emergency crews arrived at Kerns' home just after 8 a.m. Tuesday.Officials say the child was pronounced dead just before 9 a.m, as he was being transported to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.
"The child has sustained injuries that were not accidental in nature and were suspicious of child abuse," says Cumberland County Sheriff Earl Butler.
Officials say the child had bruises all over his body consistent with child abuse.
At this time, they are holding off on charging Kerns with first degree murder until autopsy results are available Wednesday morning.
Kerns is not the child's biological father, but the boyfriend of the child's mother, who is in a Winston-Salem hospital. She was notified by police of her son's death.
Detectives say Kerns has been the child's primary caregiver and wanted to adopt him.
"It's more commonly known that child abuse frequently occurs in homes where they have more stressful situations," says Kelly McDonald, director of the Child Advocacy Center.
McDonald says there is no set profile of an accused child abuser, but there are factors that come into play.
"A single parent who is solely responsible for the discipline of a child or a younger parent may not have as much information about childhood development," she says.