Authorities have arrested a Waggaman man in the beating death of a 3-year-old boy that occurred last month.
Deputies answering a 911 call at 3:45 p.m. March 18 went to the Oleander Lane house and found the child, Pierre Stewart, was not breathing. He was transported to West Jefferson Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, JPSO spokesman Col. John Fortunato said in a news release.
Becnel, who had called 911, told investigators that he had turned his attention away from Pierre for a few moments while the child drank an Icee at the table. He said that when he looked back, the boy was lying face-down on the table.
He also said he saw the child fall from the table onto the floor before he called 911.
However, an autopsy found the child had in fact died of blunt force trauma and had a lacerated liver and several large contusions on his head. Authorities began investigating the death as a homicide, Fortunato said.
Authorities said the boy’s mother, Nelly Pena, had been living with Becnel for several months and the two have a 4-month-old daughter who lived at the house on Oleander with Becnel’s 8-year-old son.
Pena told investigators that Becnel has an explosive temper and had beaten her. She said he had been rough with her son in the past, at one point slamming the child to the ground.
Pierre, she said, often avoided contact with Becnel.
Pena told authorities that she took the boy to work with her on March 18 because of Becnel’s history but that she got too busy to tend to him and called Becnel to pick him up.
Detectives also interviewed Becnel’s 8-year-old son, who said his father had picked him up at school that day and that he found it strange that Pierre and his 4-month-old sister were not in the car with him. He said his father, angry and cursing, rushed him back to the house, where the other children had been left by themselves.
The son told investigators that while he never saw his father strike Pierre, Becnel would often tell him to take his sister into another room when he was disciplining the younger boy.
When JPSO investigators once again questioned Becnel and asked about the boy’s injuries, Becnel refused to answer any additional questions and requested an attorney.
Pena could not be reached for comment Friday, and Stewart’s biological father said through an intermediary that he was too distraught to talk about the incident.
Becnel has one prior arrest in connection with a simple burglary in New Orleans in 2000.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.