Kenner police have jailed a mother of four on a murder count after officials investigating the death of her 2-year-old son over the weekend found evidence he'd been tied up, beaten and allowed to go hungry, authorities said.
Twyena Thomas, 27, was booked on a count of second-degree murder Monday in connection with the death of Chase Thomas two days earlier.
Police said Thomas admitted to hitting Chase and tying him up when she felt he deserved punishment.
Police had initially arrested her on allegations of cruelty to a juvenile, but they upgraded the count against her after an autopsy Monday. She faces mandatory life imprisonment if she is convicted of second-degree murder.
According to Kenner police Lt. Brian McGregor, officers went to an apartment in the 1000 block of 31st Street about 8:20 p.m. Saturday following a call that a toddler was having difficulty breathing. They arrived to find the boy dead.
Officers said Chase appeared to be malnourished and had bruises on his body, McGregor said. They said they also found scratches on his back and marks on his left forearm that suggested he had been bound.
Under questioning, Thomas said she was Chase's sole caregiver and would occasionally hit him with a slipper to punish him, according to McGregor. She also said she would sometimes use a cloth to tie the boy up to "hinder his movement when he was misbehaving," McGregor said.
An autopsy revealed the 2-year-old had died from malnourishment as well as blunt force trauma to the head, torso and extremities.
Coroner Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich said Chase weighed roughly 15 pounds, or about half what a toddler his age should weigh. The blunt force trauma had caused bleeding inside his head, Cvitanovich said.
Authorities also booked Thomas on an outstanding warrant linked to a simple battery incident reported in Algiers last year. That case involved another woman, but no other specifics were immediately available.
McGregor said state family services officials have taken custody of Thomas' three remaining children — daughters ages 1 and 9 and a 4-year-old son. Thomas, who claimed she was pregnant, remained behind bars Monday. A bail hearing is set for Wednesday.
Monday was not the first time Thomas has been jailed on criminal allegations involving a child. New Orleans police arrested her and a man described as her boyfriend on suspicion of child desertion in a case involving Thomas' oldest child in October 2011, when the girl was 3.
Police at the time said the girl had been found wandering the streets of Algiers by herself about 3 a.m.
Thomas and Calvin Dejean said they had left their home hours earlier when the girl was asleep so that Dejean could walk Thomas to work; it was unclear whether he checked on the child when he returned.
Last year, as part of a civil dispute between the pair, Thomas filed court documents describing Dejean as the father of Chase and two of her other children.
Attempts to contact Dejean on Monday were unsuccessful.