A Dakota County grand jury on Friday indicted a 28-year-old man on first- and second-degree murder charges in the June 2017 death of a 3-year-old foster child who had been in his girlfriend's care.
Charles Wayne Homich previously had been charged with manslaughter in the beating death of Zayden Lawson. He now faces four counts of first-degree murder and three of second-degree murder.
The boy's foster mother, Zeporia Fortenberry, 31, also faces charges in Zayden's death. Her manslaughter case is still pending, according to Dakota County attorney James Backstrom.
According to the criminal complaint, police and paramedics were called to an Eagan townhouse on June 7, 2017, on a report that a child was not breathing. Zayden had no pulse when they arrived, and was pronounced dead after being taken to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis.
Investigators found that on June 6, Fortenberry left Zayden and his younger brother, as well as her own two children, in Homich's care while she worked a night shift. Fortenberry said Homich later told her he checked on the children during the night and changed Zayden's diaper.
The next morning, she found Zayden lying on the floor of his bedroom in a pool of vomit, complaining of stomach pain, she told police. He continued to vomit, and eventually she put him on a mattress next to her bed. She called 911 when she noticed that he had stopped breathing.
An autopsy revealed that his death was caused by blunt-force injuries.
The criminal complaints say Fortenberry knew that Homich had been punching Zayden at least six weeks before his death and that she knew the boy was "really scared" of Homich.
"This little boy sustained horrific injuries … injuries he may have survived had the adults in his life sought the necessary medical care he so desperately needed," Backstrom said.
Homich will appear in court Monday. His bail has been set at $1 million without conditions, or $750,000 with conditions.