A 3-year-old boy who was brutally beaten, allegedly by his mother's boyfriend in the family's east-central Minnesota home, was removed from life support in a Minneapolis hospital and has died, a friend of the mother said Monday.
Dante Sears died Saturday morning in Minneapolis at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, said Leah Daniels, a friend of mother Jessie Carr.
"Dante was taken off life support … and was able to be a hero to two other [people] through organ donation," said Daniels, who is Carr's supervisor at Grand Casino in Hinckley, Minn., and is leading a fundraising effort for the family. His heart valves are also scheduled to be donated to other children, Daniels added.
Charges of second-degree murder were added Monday to felony counts filed last week against Jonathan M. Loun, 31.
Pine County Attorney Reese Frederickson, who had noted that Dante was "treated with particular cruelty" in the family's Sandstone, Minn., home, said he will seek the maximum sentence of 40 years in prison if Loun is convicted of murder.
Loun was earlier charged with first-degree assault, malicious punishment of a child and third-degree assault involving a victim younger than 4 years old. Those charges remain.
Loun is jailed in lieu of $1 million bail ahead of a hearing Friday.
The family has "decided to reserve any further comment until after the funeral services," Carr said in a Facebook message to the Star Tribune. "In Dante's honor our focus remains with paying him proper tribute."
Dante suffered a skull fracture, irreversible brain damage and other injuries on Aug. 24, days before his third birthday, at the home where Loun also lived.
'I heard him whining'
Prosecutors allege that Loun, who was watching Dante and his 7-year-old brother while their 28-year-old mother was working at one of her three jobs, left a note beside Dante's bloodied body, apologizing and claiming he "snapped."
Carr told investigators that Dante was "playing, happy" and uninjured when she tucked him into bed at 8:30 p.m. She left for work just after 10 p.m., leaving the boys in Loun's care.
Just before midnight, Carr said, she received a text from Loun: a photo of her younger son, face down on the floor next to his crib. The message that followed read: "I heard him whining … n this is how I find him knocked out."
She texted back, worried, but Loun replied that everything was fine.
Signs of severe abuse
When Carr arrived home a little after 7 a.m. Tuesday, she said she found Dante bleeding and unconscious in his crib. Loun was gone.
The note, left on a wall, read: "He pissed on me and I snapped. I banged his head on the floor. Hes not ok … I'm done with life all I do is hurt people. … Thank you for loving me and I'm sorry you loved me."
At the hospital, Dante was found to have a skull fracture that had gone untreated for more than seven hours.
Doctors also detected bruises and injuries around the boy's neck and to his penis. Investigators discovered blood spattered around the apartment, including on the ceiling. There was a bloody diaper in the garbage.
"These injuries are diagnostic of severe child physical abuse," the examining doctor found, according to the criminal complaint filed last week.
An autopsy conducted Sunday labeled Dante's death a homicide and said he died from blows to the head.
Suspect's criminal record
Loun was picked up in the woods near his sister's home on Tuesday afternoon.
Deputies found him under a tree, holding a knife, with nonfatal cuts along his arms, the charges read.
The defendant has a lengthy criminal record, including a 2006 conviction in Pine County for running over his roommate and attempting to hide the body by the side of the road. He was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide and served 41 months in prison for the death of Ricky Lamorie.
Last year, Loun also was convicted twice for misdemeanor domestic abuse and once for theft.
As of Monday evening, the GiveForward page, tinyurl.com/DanteSears, has received pledges of more than $6,600 to help Carr offset the cost of Dante's funeral and medical bills.
Staff writer Jenna Ross contributed to this report.