An Eagan foster mother and her boyfriend were charged Monday with manslaughter and murder in the death of a 3-year-old boy who was in the woman’s care.
The charges came 10 months after the boy, Zayden Lawson, was beaten to death June 6-7. Authorities said he died of “multiple blunt force injuries.”
Zeporia Fortenberry, 31, was charged in Dakota County District Court with two counts of second-degree manslaughter. The boyfriend, Charles W. Homich, 27, was charged with three counts of second-degree murder and two of first-degree manslaughter.
The criminal complaints detail gruesome injuries to Zayden. The documents said Fortenberry knew that Homich had been punching Zayden at least six weeks before his death and she knew the boy was “really scared” of Homich.
Fortenberry also knew that another friend who babysat with the children had slapped Zayden on his feet and made him stand in the corner naked when he was “bad.”
Fortenberry told police she lives with her two biological children and two foster children — Zayden and his younger brother, the complaints said. She said she worked a night shift and Homich, who lived with them, or “LB” would watch the children while she wasn’t there.
She told police that Homich “would lose his cool” if he had to change Zayden’s dirty diaper.
When Eagan police and paramedics were called to Fortenberry’s townhouse about 3 p.m. June 7, they found Zayden cold to the touch and not breathing.
Fortenberry told police that it was the first time she had allowed Homich to watch the children. She said she had found Zayden that morning lying on the floor of his bedroom with dark-colored vomit on his clothes and on the floor. He complained throughout the day that his stomach hurt, and Fortenberry said she eventually put him into his pajamas and laid him on a mattress next to her bed. She said she called 911 when she noticed that he wasn’t breathing.