Detroit couple arrested after 5-year-old found dead and his brother seriously injured: ‘Worst abuse case I have ever seen’

Alleged child abuse led to the death of a 5-year-old, the hospitalization of his 3-year-old brother, and the arrests of their mother and stepfather.

Detroit police said they were called to the couple’s home on Spring Garden Street on the east side of the city on Sunday at about 1:07 p.m.

They arrived just as 5-year-old Ethan Belcher was being taken by EMS truck to a nearby hospital were he was pronounced dead. They found his 3-year-old brother with bruises on his head and face.

Police arrested the boys’ mother, 27-year-old Valeria Lynn Hamilton, and their stepfather, 27-year-old Shane Robert Shelton.

Ethan’s aunt, Ashley Belcher, told WDIV-TV that she had contacted authorities about injuries she had witnessed and documented on the boy. Despite the evidence she handed over, she says the boys ended up back with the couple.

“We could have saved his life,” said Belcher, “had they just listened. It wasn’t just me. It was other people who reported it, and [Hamilton and Shelton] got sent to take some classes, and they got these children back, and it was a house of terror.”

She claimed that bruises and burns were found on Ethan’s body.

“He has over 100 cigarette burns on his body, he had frostbitten feet, and he was missing a toe that never was taken care of,” Belcher said.

The Detroit News reported horrendous abuse alleged by prosecutors during the arraignment for the couple. Other children in the home reportedly told investigators that the two boys were regularly beaten and locked in the basement with sewage and feces.

Text messages between the couple were also introduced as evidence. In one reported text, Hamilton wrote that she was going to “slam their kids so hard their heads will pop off.”

Detroit Police Chief James White said there are details from the case that are so horrible he will never forget them.

“It’s the worst abuse case I have ever seen, and I am not sensationalizing it,” said White to WDIV.

The couple is facing a slew of charges, including felony murder, torture, conspiracy to commit torture, and two counts of first-degree child abuse.

Here’s a local news report about the harrowing incident:

Officials were aware of abuse before 5-year-old killed, 3-year-old

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