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Parents Charged with Torture and Murder of 7-Year-Old Who Allegedly Had ‘Over 100 Cigarette Burns on His Body’

Valeria Lynn Hamilton (left) and Shane Robert Shelton (via Detroit Police Department)

Valeria Lynn Hamilton (left) and Shane Robert Shelton (via Detroit Police Department)

The 27-year-old parents of two young boys were arrested for allegedly torturing and beating them, killing one and severely injuring the other.

Shane Robert Shelton and Valeria Lynn Hamilton were arrested on Sunday and charged with one count each of felony murder, torture, and conspiracy to commit torture, in the death of 5-year-old Ethan Belcher, prosecutors said.

Hamilton is the boy’s biological mother while Shelton is his stepfather, prosecutors said.

The couple was also charged with two counts each of first-degree child abuse, with the second count stemming from the non-fatal abuse allegedly inflicted on Ethan’s 3-year-old brother, whose name was not released.

According to a news release from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, officers with the Detroit Police Department responded to a 911 call Sunday at a residence in the 14000 block of Spring Garden Street regarding an unknown problem.

Once there, police say they saw paramedics putting Ethan into an ambulance. He died at a hospital.

Prosecutors say they have evidence that proves Shelton and Hamilton fatally physically abused Ethan and also physically abused their 3-year-old son.

“The alleged facts in this case are extremely alarming,” Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney Kym Worthy said in a statement on Wednesday. “The evidence will come out in court.”

Details about the case came out during an arraignment for the couple on Wednesday, according to The Detroit News.

Wayne County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Makepeace told the court that Ethan had loop-shaped abrasions covering his body, indicating that he had been beaten with a cord-like object, according to the newspaper.

The prosecutor also said the child had been suffering from gangrene on one of his toes and that other children living in the house told investigators that Shelton and Hamilton regularly beat Ethan and his brother. They would also lock the two in the basement, which was rank with feces and sewage, the paper reported.

Makepeace showed the court text messages between Shelton and Hamilton, one from Shelton saying, “Beat the dog (expletive) out of that (expletive),” referring to one of the boys, the newspaper reported.

Hamilton at one point allegedly wrote that she was going to “slam their kids so hard their heads will pop off,” according to the newspaper.

Ethan’s aunt told Detroit NBC affiliate WDIV-TV that she reported the abuse to Child Protective Services last year but the boys remained with the parents following an investigation. She also claimed that Ethan had been burned with cigarettes.

“He had over 100 cigarette burns on his body,” she told the station.

(image via Detroit Police Department)

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.