Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom announced that Zeporia Fortenberry, age 31 of Eagan, has been charged* with one count each of Manslaughter in the Second Degree (Child Neglect; Knowingly Permits Continuing Physical Abuse) and Manslaughter in the Second Degree (Child Neglect or Endangerment) and Charles Wayne Homich, age 27 (address unknown), has been charged* with three counts of Murder in the Second Degree (Without Intent/While Committing a Felony), one count each of Manslaughter in the First Degree (While Committing Gross Misdemeanor or Misdemeanor with Violence) and Manslaughter in the First Degree (While Committing or Attempting to Commit Malicious Punishment), in connection with the death of three-year-old Zayden Lawson, a foster child in the care of Fortenberry, in June of 2017.
A summary of the allegations contained in the criminal complaint is set forth below:
On June 7, 2017 around 3:00 p.m., Eagan police officers and paramedics were dispatched to a townhome on a report that a three-year-old male was not breathing. The child was found to be cold to the touch and without a pulse. He was transported to Children’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The investigation in this case revealed that on June 6 while Fortenberry was working the night shift and left her two children, Lawson and his younger brother in the care of Homich for the first time. Fortenberry stated that Homich told her he checked on the children during the night and had to change Lawson’s diaper. The morning of June 7, Lawson was found lying on the floor of his bedroom with dark-colored vomit on his clothing and floor. Throughout the day, Lawson told Fortenberry that his stomach hurt. He vomited a couple of times and Fortenberry told police that he was acting lazy. She eventually put him in his pajamas and laid him on a mattress next to her bed. While on the phone with Homich, she noticed he wasn’t conscious or breathing and called 911.
An autopsy revealed his death was due to multiple blunt force injuries.
Additional facts pertaining to this case can be found in the criminal complaint, which is located online at: Criminal Complaint Search. While in custody, a mug shot can be viewed at: Inmate Search.
Backstrom commented: “The fatal injuries suffered by this little boy are extremely disturbing.” Backstrom praised the Eagan Police Department for their thorough investigation in this case.
Fortenberry appeared on April 12 and bail was set in the amount of $100,000 without conditions ($50,000 with conditions) by Judge Timothy McManus. Her next court appearance is April 25, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. in Hastings.
Homich was arrested this weekend and he made his first appearance on these charges today. Bail was set in the amount of $1,000,000 without conditions ($750,000 with conditions) by Judge Richelle Wahi. His next court appearance was set for May 9 at 9:00 a.m. in Hastings.
If you have questions, contact James Backstrom at 651-438-4440.
*Criminal charges are not evidence of guilt. A defendant/suspect is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.