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Passer-by tried to save boy; suspect said child fell

Emil Whitis • Feb 28, 2014 at 1:29 PM

(Updated with full story) A 3-year-old boy is dead and his mother’s boyfriend is behind bars on a murder charge. 

When Owen Barker’s mother went to work at about 6 p.m. Monday, she left the toddler in the care of her boyfriend, Michael Milner, 24, at their Fulton Street apartment, Sandusky police said.    

Less than two hours later, Owen was dead.   

Milner is also charged with felonious assault and child endangering. He was the only person in the apartment when the toddler sustained fatal blows to the torso, Sandusky police Lt. John Orzech said.

Milner called 911 at about 7:30 p.m.  

“A baby fell and hit his head and he’s not moving,” Milner is heard telling a dispatcher in the recorded 911 call. “He was playing and he tripped on a freaking truck.”

“He’s not breathing.”  

Glenn Fredericks, 30, said he had just stopped by his friend’s Fulton Street home at about 7:30 p.m. when he saw a man running back and forth in a driveway in the 500 block of Fulton St., carrying a boy’s limp body in his arms.

Fredericks is listed as a witness in the police report on Owen’s death.

“I saw him run past with a limp child in his arms like he was going to the hospital, then for some reason he changed his mind and ran back,” Fredericks told the Register. “The kid was purple and had a big lump on his head. (Milner) said he thought the baby was dead.” 

Milner ran back inside the apartment and placed Owen’s lifeless body on the couch, then started to fumble with a cell phone, said Fredericks, who had followed Milner into the apartment. 

“He asked me what he should do,” Fredericks said. “I told him to call 911.” (CALL POSTED ABOVE)

With help still minutes away, and not knowing what else to do, Fredericks said he tried to resuscitate the child.

“I had to do something,” he said. “At first it sounded like gargling, then he took a couple breaths, so I did it again and there were a couple more breaths. And that was it.”

At that point, paramedics showed up and took over.

“I got that image of the kid just laying there burned in my head,” Fredericks said. “It’s kind of driving me nuts.”

Fredericks said he couldn’t sleep Monday night.

“I did what I could, I did what I could,” Fredericks said. “If it were my kid, I would have called 911 right away. I don’t understand.”

Paramedics rushed Owen to Firelands Regional Medical Center, where the toddler died just minutes after arrival.

Later, in an interview room at the police station, Milner stuck to the same story he told dispatchers: Owen tripped and hit his head on a toy truck, Orzech said.

Milner is not Owen’s father.

The child’s body was sent to the Lucas County coroner for an autopsy, the preliminary results of which came in Tuesday morning.

“Internal injuries caused the child’s death,” Orzech said. “It was not at all consistent with (Milner’s) story.”

Owen also sustained visible injuries to the head, neck and back, police stated in a release.

Detectives also found patches of suspected blood stains throughout the apartment, not just in the spot Milner said the toddler had fallen.

“There was suspected blood found in different rooms inside the apartment, on different items inside the apartment,” Orzech said.

Police arrested Milner shortly after the interview. He was booked into the Erie County jail at about 12:20 a.m. Tuesday, according to jail records.   

A couple living near the Fulton Street apartment, asking not to be named, said Milner had previously told them he was the target of an investigation by children’s services workers in summer 2011.

Milner told the couple he had bruised Owen’s buttocks after spanking him when he caught the toddler wandering out onto a roof.

Orzech confirmed there was an investigation into that incident, and he also confirmed investigators found bruises on the boy’s buttocks.

Orzech said he doesn’t know what came of that inquiry, and he deferred to children’s services investigator AJ Lill, who did not return a reporter’s phone message Tuesday afternoon.

The couple said there was another incident about two months ago that also made them question the toddler’s safety.

In that incident, sometime in May, Milner and the couple got into a brief confrontation.     

The man said he told Milner to grow up, and pointed out that he had a child to take care of. According to the man, Milner responded: “That’s not my kid.”

Orzech, meanwhile, pleaded with the community to alert police to any incidents involving suspected child abuse. 

“We’ve got a young innocent life here that couldn’t protect itself,” Orzech said. “If people suspect or hear of any child abuse ... pick up the phone and call. We don’t mind checking.”

Residents can remain anonymous when calling Sandusky police at 419-627-5863 or Erie County Children Services at 419-626-6781. 

Milner is being held in the Erie County jail without bond.

Sandusky Municipal Court records show he has been charged with nearly 20 criminal offenses in the past four years, the bulk of them involving alcohol or drug abuse.   

On his Facebook page, Milner recently posted this statement: “I wish my girl friend would really understand how much I love her and her 3 well soon to be 3 in two days year old son with all my heart no matter what comes threw my path their the only one I think about all I do is want them both to have the greatest life I can provide for them without them I wouldnt be the man I am today they helped me get out of some bad times and I thank them for that.”

On her Facebook page, Danielle Flannery, 22 — Owen’s mother — previously posted this in her profile: “i love my son more than anything in the world.”

For a follow up story on this incident with information on the previous child abuse report, pick up a copy of Thursday's Register.

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