A Pierce County judge entered not guilty pleas Friday for a Tacoma woman accused of killing her toddler son.
Prosecutors charged Melani Lotu, 20, with one count each of homicide by abuse and second-degree murder in this week’s death of her 13-month-old son, Lorenzo.
The homicide-by-abuse charge gives prosecutors the option of trying to prove Lorenzo died as the result of a pattern of abuse or torture committed with “an extreme indifference to human life,” according to court documents.
Tacoma police detectives began investigating Lotu after someone took her son to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital on Sept. 20, according to a declaration of probable cause filed by Murphy.
The boy was suffering form “acute head trauma, bleeding on the brain, bruising to the back of his head, a cut to his ear and retinal hemorrhaging” when he was admitted to the hospital, Murphy wrote in his declaration.
Mary Bridge staff told police the injuries appeared nonaccidental and life-threatening, according to the declaration.
The boy died Thursday after being taken off life support. Police arrested Lotu the same day.
Relatives told police that Lotu had been beating the boy for weeks before he died and that they’d taken the boy away from her at one point because they were afraid for his safety
, the court records state.
They told detectives that Lotu attacked her son again on Sept. 19 after he vomited on her after taking a bottle, Murphy wrote in his declaration. The woman shook the boy back and forth, threw him against a wall, then beat him on the head with a DVD case, the declaration states.
Relatives intervened, but Lotu grabbed the boy and took him into a bedroom and closed the door, according to the court records. The relatives said they heard Lotu yelling and cursing at the boy, who later emerged “walking funny,” the records state.