An Eagan man accused of fatally beating his girlfriend’s foster child after having to change the boy’s diaper was sentenced Tuesday to 25 years in prison.
Charles Wayne Homich, 28, was sentenced by Dakota County District Judge Christopher Lehmann in connection with the 2017 death of 3-year-old Zayden Lawson. Zayden was a foster child in the care of Homich’s girlfriend, Zeporia Dionn Fortenberry of Eagan.
A Dakota County grand jury in December indicted Homich on four counts of first-degree murder and two counts second-degree murder. In April, he pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree murder (commission of a felony-malicious punishment of a child).
“We are pleased to have brought Charles Homich to justice in connection with this tragic case that claimed the life of this little boy,” Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said in a statement Tuesday.
In June, Fortenberry, 32, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to three years and five months in prison.
On the afternoon of June 7, 2017, police officers and paramedics responded to a report of an unresponsive child at the Eagan townhome that Homich and Fortenberry shared with Fortenberry’s two biological children and her two foster children — Lawson and his younger brother.
First responders found Lawson lying on his back on the living room floor, cold to the touch and without a pulse, according to court documents. Lawson was taken to Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, where he was pronounced dead.
An autopsy the next day revealed evidence of blunt-force trauma injuries.
Fortenberry’s babysitter, who is identified in the charges as “LB,” told investigators that Fortenberry regularly asked LB to care for the kids while she was at work because “she did not trust Homich with Lawson,” and that “Homich would ‘lose his cool’ if he had to change Lawson’s dirty diaper,” according to the criminal complaint against Homich.
A friend and co-worker of Homich’s, identified in court documents as “DW,” told police that — prior to Lawson’s death — Homich said he had “punched the f– out of Zayden in his stomach,” the complaint said.
Investigators also searched the mobile phones of Fortenberry and Homich, and found a series of text messages they exchanged three days before Lawson’s death, according to a criminal complaint against Fortenberry. The conversation begins with Homich telling Fortenberry that Lawson had urinated in his diaper, to which Fortenberry allegedly replied: “O wow.. I’m so sick of him did u whoop his a-? I just don’t know what else to do with that kid.”
Homich then texted that he “Beat the s– out of them feet,” the complaint said.
“Good.. lil f—,” Fortenberry replied, according to the complaint.
Homich told investigators that he changed Lawson’s soiled diaper the night before the boy died, according to the complaint.