Man charged with murder in death of 3-year-old in foster care

Zayden Ace Larson Photo: Photo courtesy of Eagan Police
Zayden Ace Larson

December 21, 2018 05:30 PM

On Friday, a man was charged with seven counts of murder in the death of a 3-year-old boy at an Eagan foster home.

According to a release sent out by the Office of Dakota County Attorney James C. Backstrom, an announcement was made Friday that Charles Wayne Homich, 28, has been indicted by the Dakota County Grand Jury with four counts of first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder.

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RELATED: Foster mom and boyfriend charged with manslaughter, murder in death of 3-year-old in Dakota County


The specific charges include:

  • Murder in the first degree (while committing child abuse-assault in the first degree/past pattern of child abuse)
  • Murder in the first degree (while committing child abuse-malicious punishment of a child/past pattern of child abuse)
  • Murder in the first degree (while committing child abuse-domestic assault/past pattern of child abuse)
  • Murder in the first degree (while committing child abuse-neglect of a child/past pattern of child abuse)
  • Murder in the second degree (commission of a felony- Assault in the first degree)
  • Murder in the second degree (commission of a felony- Malicious punishment of a child)
  • Murder in the second degree (commission of felony- Neglect of a child)

These charges stem from the death of 3-year-old Zayden Lawson, a foster child in the care of Homich's girlfriend, Zeporia Fortenberry, 31, from Eagan, in June of 2017.

Fortenberry was charged on April 16 with one count of manslaughter in the second degree (child neglect; knowingly permits continuing physical abuse) and manslaughter in the second degree (child neglect or endangerment). The case against her is still pending, according to court documents. 

According to the criminal complaint, on June 7, 2017, around 3 p.m., Eagan police officers and paramedics responded to a call that a 3-year-old 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. 

An investigation in the 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, her live-in boyfriend. Fortenberry stated to police that Homich told her he checked on the children during the night and had to change Lawson's diaper.

On 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 law enforcement 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.

RELATED: Aunt still looking for answers after death of 3-year-old in foster care

An autopsy revealed his death was due to multiple blunt force injuries. 

Homich is currently in custody and will make his first appearance on his indictment on Dec. 24. At this time, his bail remains in the amount of $1,000,000 without conditions ($750,000 with conditions). 

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Tommy Wiita

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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