FRANKLIN — The first of three Naponee residents charged in the death of a 2-year-old boy had his first day in Franklin County Court today.
The charge of felony child abuse resulting in death was read to Peter F. Draper, 47. He is hearing impaired, but reads lips. He does not sign.
He, his wife, Nancy L. Draper, 47, and his daughter, Laura E. Rinehart, 24, and all of Naponee, have each been charged with one count of felony child abuse resulting in death of Laura’s son, Joseph L. Rinehart Jr., 2.
Arraignments for the women were scheduled for this afternoon.
The charge is a Class IB felony, which carries a maximum of life in prison.
A hearing for Peter Draper was tentatively set for May 29.
According to court documents, Laura Rinehart and Nancy Draper brought Joseph to the Franklin County Hospital twice April 30. On the first visit, Laura told authorities that Joseph had been sick since April 27 and was unable to hold down food. Joseph was treated for constipation and released.
After the family returned to Naponee, Joseph became unresponsive and was taken back to the hospital at about 8 p.m. He was not breathing upon arrival and was pronounced dead. All three denied that any physical violence had occurred,
An autopsy conducted May 2 showed the toddler died of head and internal injuries caused by blunt force trauma. Investigators were shown several bruises on the boy’s extremities, a skull fracture and an internal abdominal injury.
Three other children between the ages 1 and 4 lived in the home and were taken into custody with the state Department of Health and Human Services.
The Family Advocacy Network in Kearney interviewed Joseph’s 4-year-old sister, and she described seeing Peter Draper hit Joseph in the stomach and knock him to the ground on at least one occasion.
Laura Rinehart also told investigators that she saw her father assault Joseph several times and saw injuries resulting from those assaults, including Joseph’s eye being swollen shut on at least one occasion.
When Joseph became ill April 30, Laura said Peter tried to stop her from taking the boy to the hospital. After the boy’s death, he told Nancy and Laura not to say anything about him assaulting Joseph and that law enforcement would “point fingers” at them after the autopsy.
Laura also said on at least one previous occasion, Peter told her that if she told police anything about the abuse, he would kill her. Court documents state that Laura is extremely fearful of her father and believes he will kill her if he is released because of her cooperation with law enforcement.
According to court documents, Laura had been granted temporary custody of the four children April 10.