Mom, grandparents arrested in toddler's death
The investigation into the toddler’s death also resulted in the removal of his three young siblings from their home in Franklin County.
The boy, Joseph Rinehart, was pronounced dead at Franklin County Memorial Hospital after family members brought him in about 8 p.m. Monday.
An autopsy Wednesday revealed that Joseph died of head and internal injuries caused by blunt force trama, said Lt. Dennis Leonard of the Nebraska State Patrol.
Joseph’s mother, Laura E. Rinehart, 24, and his grandparents, Peter F. Draper, 47, and Nancy L. Draper, 47, all of Naponee, were arrested Thursday on suspicion of child abuse resulting in death.
The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Leonard alleged that “all three were aware of abuse, none of them reported it, none of them tried to stop the abuse.” He said authorities believe Joseph’s injuries were a result of two separate beatings that occurred close together.
Joseph and his three siblings, who are between the ages of 1 and 4, lived with their mother and grandparents in a small home in Naponee.
It was a clean house, but there appeared to be inadequate sleeping space, said Leonard.
“They were making due with padding and blankets,” he said. “We’ve seen worse environments that children live in, but it did appear to be a difficult existence.”
Leonard said there had been a previous reported incident of child abuse at Joseph’s home involving an older child. He said it was investigated by an agency other than the Nebraska State Patrol.
According to court records, Laura Rinehart was granted temporary custody of the children in April.
Nebraska state law requires every person to report any type of child abuse or if they suspect child abuse. Contact the Nebraska Health and Human Services child abuse and neglect hotline at 1-800-652-1999.
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