DHS: No reports of abuse prior to Bartlesville child's beating death
BY LAURA SUMMERS World Correspondent
Thursday, December 23, 2010
BARTLESVILLE — There were no warning signs of abuse for Washington County’s child welfare workers prior to the death this month of a 3-year-old Bartlesville boy who allegedly died of blunt trauma.
A report released this week by Oklahoma Department of Human Services on the death of Christian Norris shows child welfare officials did not receive any calls complaining of possible abuse or neglect involving the child prior to his death Dec. 7.
Joshua Robert Benton, 22, is being held without bond on a charge of first-degree murder involving a child in the death of the toddler.
Benton, who worked as a Washington County jailer until his arrest, reportedly confessed to using force on the tot. He is being held in a jail in another county.
The state human services department report indicates the child welfare office received a report on Dec. 7 stating Christian was unresponsive and en route to Jane Phillips Medical Center in Bartlesville.
Another report made to child welfare the same day indicated the child had been sick and vomiting prior to his death.
The toddler lived in a home in a in Bartlesville residence with his mother Shannon Hicks and Benton, according to court records. Christian’s siblings have been placed in the custody of relatives, the child welfare report states.
Initially, officials thought Christian might have died by choking on his vomit, according to the state report.
However, an autopsy performed by the State Medical Examiner’s Office determined Christian had broken bones and internal injuries, a court affidavit stated. Benton allegedly told police he used force on the tot that could have caused the injuries that led to the boy’s death, the affidavit stated.
DHS is continuing its investigation. Benton returns to court March 1 for a preliminary hearing.