By the time Aiden King died at the age of 6 months, he had been scalded in a hot bath and had suffered multiple rib fractures. The Baton Rouge child died Nov. 6, eight days after being found unresponsive in an oversized bed, where he had been placed while his father allegedly was preparing marijuana for sale.
There will be no murder charge in Aiden’s death.
Instead, Aiden’s 23-year-old father will face a cruelty charge for what a prosecutor described Friday as a pattern of abuse and neglect that included allegedly burning the infant in a scalding bath when he was just a month old.
An East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury late Thursday declined to indict Curtis King on a second-degree murder charge in Aiden’s death but did charge him with second-degree cruelty to a juvenile and possession with intent to distribute marijuana.
Dr. Beau Clark, the parish coroner, determined in January that the baby asphyxiated while lying in the adult-sized bed. Clark said he could not find sufficient evidence to classify the death as either a homicide or an accident.
Aiden’s death — caused by his inability to breathe in the oversized bed — differed significantly from cases of accidental asphyxia the parish has seen, the coroner said, in part because of the history of neglect, the baby’s prior medical condition and the uncertainty surrounding the father’s intentions.
King has been jailed since he was arrested Nov. 18 and booked on counts of second-degree murder and second-degree cruelty to a juvenile in the death of Aiden. He remained behind bars Friday, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said.
Moore, who noted he agrees with the grand jury’s decision, said the cruelty charge covers alleged patterns of abuse and neglect ranging from May 31 to Nov. 6, the day the baby was taken off life support.
“This case is a very emotional and disturbing one to all involved,” Moore said, adding that Baton Rouge police thoroughly investigated the child’s death.
The cruelty charge includes an incident in late May in which police allege King placed the baby in scalding bathwater, leaving him with burns to about 80 percent of his body. He was airlifted to Shriners Hospitals for Children in Galveston, Texas, and had to undergo skin grafts.
Doctors also found multiple rib fractures that were healing, police have said, an indication of previous abuse.
The state Department of Children and Family Services decided not to take Aiden into protective custody despite his life-threatening burn injuries that were caused by apparent neglect. The agency closed its file on Aiden three months before his death, a spokeswoman has said, because officials did not receive any evidence or medical reports that indicated additional safety or abuse risks were present.
DCFS case records remain confidential under state law — even after the death of a neglected child — unless they are introduced in court.
King’s drug charge dates back to Oct. 29, the day authorities responded to the apartment after Aiden was reported to be unresponsive. Police found marijuana in the home. The baby was taken to a hospital and remained on life support until Nov. 6.
King had left the child unattended behind a closed door on Oct. 29, investigators have said, while King was in another room separating marijuana to sell. The father later fell asleep next to the baby on the adult-sized bed and said he awoke to find the child unresponsive, police have said.
A police search of King’s apartment turned up a digital scale and a plastic bag of marijuana seeds in the closet of the baby’s bedroom. Investigators also found a black bookbag in the baby’s closet with more than 13 ounces of marijuana and about 50 dosage units of THC pills, according to court records. King admitted selling drugs “to make enough money to pay the bills,” an affidavit says.
King, 11888 Longridge Ave., faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted on the cruelty charge and up to 30 years on the drug charge. His case has been assigned to state District Judge Trudy White.