Henrico murder suspect denies killing 3-year-old boy
A Henrico County man facing a first-degree murder charge in the alleged beating death of a 3-year-old boy is denying any involvement in the child's death and, through his lawyer, says he believes the child's injuries may have been accidental and cumulative over time.
Attorney Greg Sheldon also said that murder defendant Kevin M. Lucas, 45, was deeply concerned and responded as best he could when he called the mother of toddler Christian Stephens to report that the child was not breathing last week.
"He had run into a wall and wasn't feeling well," Sheldon said of Christian, recalling Lucas' description of events from Thursday afternoon and evening.
"Both the mother and Mr. Lucas had been worried about him, and [Lucas] had been checking every 15 minutes or so to make sure he was all right."
Sheldon said Lucas called the mother, Maria E. Stephens, 40, as soon as he realized the child wasn't breathing and then talked with a 911 operator whom Stephens alerted by cell phone from her car; the operator called Lucas and directed him in administering CPR.
Sheldon said Lucas moved Christian downstairs from the child's bedroom, where he had been sleeping, so he would be close to the front door when rescue workers arrived.
A search warrant says rescue workers found the child "cold to the touch" when they arrived and declared Christian dead at 6:37 p.m.
A funeral for the boy, whose formal name was Christianreid J.C. Stephens, tentatively is scheduled for Friday.
Court records show that when arrested early Friday morning, he declared he had $1 in cash on hand, no income, and was paying more than $270 a month in child-support payments from a previous relationship.
A judge denied him bond last week.
But he said Lucas described to him sharing a meaningful relationship with Stephens, who is divorced and formerly homeless, and her three young boys. Stephens' other sons are 5 and 8.
Sheldon said Lucas took pride in easing the cost of child care for the woman by watching the boys when Stephens went to work; she is a senior underwriter for Bank of America.
Neighbors at the Shannon Green town-house complex, where the couple lived for much of the past year, have described Lucas as quiet and aloof.
The brothers' rambunctious behavior prompted neighbors to file a petition with the Shannon Green Homeowner's Association seeking better control over the community's young people in the U-shaped cluster of town houses at 4900 Farrell Court, neighbors said.
Sheldon said Lucas told him Christian suffered numerous blows from falls and bicycle accidents over time, that Stephens was aware of the injuries, and that he believes Christian's death may have resulted from the accumulated impact of the injuries.
Henrico police said Christian suffered "massive trauma," and the state medical examiner's office concluded that the cause of death was homicide and the manner of death was from "inflicted blunt-force injuries of head." A search warrant described "a swollen laceration" on Christian's forehead.
Sandra Hardney, a former baby sitter, has said she noticed bruises on Christian's face but did not report her fears of abuse, because Christian's brothers explained the boy often fell.
Stephens and her three boys were featured in television and newspaper reports during the past two years, near the time she and the boys lived for seven months in a homeless shelter in Fairfax County. Asked to comment last night, a spokeswoman for a Fairfax advocacy organization, Reston Interfaith, which cared for the Stephenses, said privacy laws prevented detailed comment.