HOUSTON – The family of a 10-year-old disabled boy whose decomposing body was found in a cardboard box had twice been investigated by Texas social workers, though no abuse was found in the first case and the second claim couldn't be fully investigated, officials said Monday.
The boy's father, Jeffrey Singer, was charged with serious bodily injury to a child after the body of his son, Jonathan, who had cerebral palsy, was discovered in the family's vehicle over the weekend in a Houston suburb. Investigators are trying to figure out how and when the boy died.
Singer, 45, was released from jail Monday after posting a $50,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday. Singer's attorney said the unemployed father did nothing to hurt his son.
"His position has been from the outset that he did nothing to harm or injure or cause his son's death," attorney Jim Lindeman said. "Something terrible happened to his son and it was a tragic circumstance."
Lindeman declined to comment on specifics of the case, saying only that Singer never confessed to police and that the pending autopsy report will support Singer's claim that he did not hurt his son, who was partially or completely blind. The report is expected to be released Wednesday.
Police in Pasadena, a suburb southeast of Houston where the family lived, said the boy's mother could also be charged, though investigators were waiting for the autopsy results. The boy's two sisters, who are 15 and 17, are staying with relatives, said Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokeswoman Gwen Carter.
Carter said Child Protective Services officials in January 2010 looked into a claim that the boy, then 9, might have been neglected and suffered some kind of abuse by both parents. No abuse was found.
Four months later, the agency began investigating a claim that the boy's mother may not have been fully able to take care of her son because she was ill. But the investigation was cut short because the family moved and couldn't be located. The agency did not disclose the mother's illness.
Lindeman declined to comment on the reports, saying he thought they "were rather inconclusive."
Police filed neglect charges Sunday against the boy's 41-year-old mother, Tina Louise Madrid, but she was released after prosecutors asked investigators for more information, which they'll use to decide whether to file formal charges, Pasadena police spokesman Vance Mitchell said.
No current telephone listings were available for Madrid.
Police went to the family's apartment in Pasadena after getting a call around 11 p.m. Saturday from the boy's uncle, who said he was concerned because he had not heard from them, Mitchell said.
Madrid told officers that her son was fine, and that he and Singer had gone to see the boy's grandfather in a northern suburb of Houston, Mitchell said. About three or four hours later, Houston police got a call from the boy's grandfather.
Singer had driven to his father's house and "told him something bad had happened to his son," Mitchell said. When police arrived, they asked to look inside Singer's sport utility vehicle and Singer agreed.
"As soon as they opened the door, they knew something was wrong," Mitchell said.
Inside, police found a corrugated cardboard box engulfed by a foul odor of decay. The box was taken to the medical examiner's office, where X-rays confirmed the intact and decaying body of Jonathan Singer, Mitchell said.
It's unclear when the boy was last seen alive or whether the uncle indicated how long it had been since he'd seen the family. Former neighbors said Monday that the boy's family moved to the apartment after their home was damaged in a fire a couple years ago.
"It's still very early in the investigation. One of the big keys will be the medical examiner's report and the determination of the cause of death and how long the boy had been deceased," Mitchell said.
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