3-year-old dies after mother’s boyfriend whips, hits him

3-year-old dies after mother's boyfriend whips, hits him (Image 1)

Hospital staff members were unable to revive a three-year-old who suffered multiple injuries after he was allegedly whipped by his mother's boyfriend.

The toddler, Elijah Hunter, was brought to the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital by the Nashville Fire Department on April 26 after he reportedly “stopped breathing.”

Life saving efforts by the hospital staff were unsuccessful, and the child was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the hospital.

Hospital staff noticed several injuries on the three-year-old's abdomen, chest, back, legs, arms, face and head.

He also sustained abrasions on his face, chest and neck, along with injuries inside of his upper and lower lips.

Authorities interviewed Donald Harris, who admitted to whipping the toddler multiple times with a belt and striking him with his fist while holding the belt.

A warrant against Harris was taken out on May 7. Police had been unable to find him until Wednesday when an officer working an unrelated call on Litton Avenue spotted Harris and took him into custody.

Harris is charged with felony aggravated child abuse.

Nashville's News 2 tracked down Harris' father on Thursday who didn't know his son had been arrested.

“Yes, I am surprised. I don't even believe it,” said Billie Harris Sr. “I love him and I just wish he'd let me know what's going on.”

According to Harris' Facebook page, he attended Maplewood High School and graduated in 2001.

Owens, a neighbor of the victim's family, has not slept well since the traumatic incident.

He constantly relives that fateful early Friday morning when his terrified neighbor begged him to save her son's life.

“It was quarter after the five she knocked on the door saying her baby wasn't breathing,” said Owens.

Owens rushed across the hall to find Elijah Hunter's lifeless body laying on a mattress  Owens was on the phone with 911 assisting the mother's boyfriend Harris who was trying desperately to resuscitate the boy.

“We tried the best we could to save him,” said Owens.

The alleged abuse was a surprise to Owens. He did not suspect anything from the couple who lived across from his for the last few months.

“If I live to be one hundred I never want to see something like that again,” said Owens.

The investigation continues. Detectives are awaiting autopsy results to determine the cause of death.

Harris was booked into the Metro Jail on $250,000 bond and is expected in court on Tuesday.

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