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Ex-N.C. College Professor Previously Charged with Child Abuse Is Now Accused of Murder Following Recently Adopted Newborn’s Death


Van Erick Custodio appears in a mugshot

A former college professor previously charged with child abuse was additionally accused of homicide on Thursday after the newborn child he adopted a few weeks ago recently died from his injuries.

Van Erick Custodio, 42, now stands accused of murder in the first degree and felony child abuse. He allegedly admitted to abusing the boy “multiple times,” according to arrest warrants obtained by Charlotte, N.C.-based ABC/Telemundo affiliate WSOC.

In those documents, law enforcement wrote that the child suffered a “skull fracture, broken rib, and multiple fractures in each leg.”

Another court document obtained by the TV station alleges that earlier this month, one of Custodio’s friends told police the now-former educator admittedly “threw the child on the sofa and also squeezed the child, hearing a pop in the rib area.”

That friend also said the defendant admittedly “jerked the legs of the child back and felt a pop in the child’s legs” while changing his diaper.

The child abuse charges were filed after the Gastonia Police Department and emergency personnel responded to a call that the 6-week-old boy had gone into cardiac arrest on April 1, 2022. The infant was then rushed to a nearby hospital with life-threatening injuries, according to Charlotte, N.C.-based CBS affiliate WBTV.

Custodio was charged with child abuse in Gastonia County, N.C. while out of town. He was eventually arrested in York County, N.C. two days after the charges were filed–sheriff’s deputies reportedly received information that the suspect was hiding out in a lake house there. The defendant was arrested and returned to Gastonia on Wednesday, April 13, 2022–the same day the boy died in a hospital.

According to one of the warrants, Custodio’s wife told him to leave their house when he admitted to abusing the adoptive boy.

Custodio once appeared in a video to support fundraising efforts so he and his wife could adopt the boy, WSOC’s Ken Lemon discovered.

“We just felt like God put that desire in our hearts,” the couple said in the video. “We’ve always wanted to have a family. At the end of the day, it’s a calling, right, it’s also a scriptural thing, right?”

Both Hands, an organization that funds adoptions of orphaned children, helped place the child with the defendant and his wife.

“Our team is incredibly devastated about this news,” the agency said in a statement before the boy died. “We find these actions atrocious and pray for healing for this child. We strive for all children to be placed in safe and loving homes, so our hearts are broken.”

The defendant previously worked for Belmont Abbey College. He was placed on family leave before being suspended on Wednesday; his page there shows up on Google results as of this writing but is no longer active. Custodio was hired as an adjunct professor by the University of North Carolina – Charlotte this semester. In a statement, UNC moved to distance itself from his hiring.

“UNC Charlotte hired Van Erick Custodio on a limited, temporary contract to teach one class this semester in an adjunct capacity,” the university said in a statement. “He has been placed on administrative leave, and another faculty member will cover this class for the remainder of the semester.”

[image via Gastonia Police Department]

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