Two residents of an Anoka apartment building were about to report their concern for 3-year-old Devin Drake's safety.
Two Anoka neighbors grew suspicious after seeing bruises on 3-year-old Devin Drake, and one of them planned to call child protection the day he was brought into the hospital and four days before he died.
Devin died at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis on Saturday.
Elizabeth A. Moorman, 40, Devin's mother, has been charged with neglect in Hennepin County District Court, and her boyfriend, Anthony W. Urban, 24, of Andover, was charged with first degree assault.
Gary Patterson, a detective with the Anoka County Sheriff's Office, said the charges are likely to be amended Tuesday to reflect the boy's death.
Urban told authorities that he had struck the boy on the side of the head after the child bit down on his fingers as Urban helped him brush his teeth. The boy's head then hit the bathroom floor, the boyfriend said, according to court documents.
The boy threw up, and when Urban phoned Moorman she told him not to call for help because she had warrants out for her arrest, he told authorities, according to the charges.
Marissa Jones, who lives in an apartment building on the 1800 block of S. Ferry St. in Anoka, said she was briefly questioned by a law enforcement investigator. She said she saw the boy with a black eye, and that she and a third woman who lived in the building had gone shopping together and agreed last Tuesday to call child protection about the abuse. After they returned with the groceries, Jones said she saw Urban emerging from the apartment, carrying the boy, with a blanket covering him.
She said Urban told her that the boy had had a seizure and he was taking him to Mercy Hospital, which is in Coon Rapids. She said he appeared to be breathing with some difficulty. From there the boy was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he died Saturday.
Jones said that Moorman sometimes paid her to look after the boy. She said when she saw the boy's black eye last week, she asked him how he got it and he told her, "I fell off my mom's bed."
Jones said, "I didn't believe him. I said to him, 'Mommy told you to say that.'" She said the boy answered, "No."
Sarah Hughes, who lived in an apartment next to Moorman, said she was interviewed by an investigator. She said that she saw what looked like a black eye, markings on his neck as though he might have been choked, and marks on his head.
She said that through the walls, she could hear Urban screaming at the boy and heard the boy crying. But she said she never saw the boy actually being struck, so she was reluctant to call authorities.
Hughes said she now regrets she didn't report her suspicions, and if this ever happened again she would make a call. She said she never dealt with anything like this before.
On Tuesday, Hughes said that through the door she heard Moorman talking to Urban inside her apartment, telling Urban he needed to take the boy to the hospital. She said she heard her say, "I need you to carry him."
Jones said she had never seen Moorman hit the boy, but after Urban started coming around, "I started seeing bruises." She said she asked Moorman if Urban was hitting the boy and Moorman said that he wasn't and that he loved the boy and would not do that.
Patterson, the detective, said Monday that child protection had been involved with the family since before the incident. A social worker had been assigned the case, but Patterson did not say how much further was done.
Moorman had offered authorities three different stories about how the boy became injured, according to charges filed in the case. She first told a doctor her son drove an electric car into a toy box and fell into the box head first. To a nurse, she said the boy might have been pushed down a flight of stairs by another child in the apartment building. Later, she told a detective she had left the child in Urban's care on Monday and again on Tuesday.
Jones remembers the boy fondly as a rambunctious, smart youngster. "You would tell him something and the next day he would remember what you said," she said.
Randy Furst • 612-673-4224