A Georgia man has been arrested after beating his 3-year-old stepson, who later died of severe head trauma.
Joshua David Richards, 21, was arrested on Jan. 23 after authorities responded to a report of an injured child at Joshua's home, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The child's mother had called police after noticing bruises on the boy that morning.
Police said the mother was sleeping in a nearby room when the assault occurred. The child, who was identified as Brentley Gore, sustained "severe trauma" to his head during the attack.
Joshua, who is the son of local Police Chief Josh Richards, allegedly beat 3-year-old Brentley with a belt, police told WXIA.
"The child was airlifted to an Atlanta-area hospital with multiple skull fractures," Police Captain Keith Shaddix told the news station. "There was some swelling around the eyes, some bruising that showed up on the forehead."
The child died from his injuries on Jan. 28. Joshua was initially charged with aggravated battery, aggravated assault, possession of marijuana and first-degree cruelty to children, police said. A murder charge was added after the child passed away.
Joshua broke down in tears during his court appearance on Jan. 30 after being charged with whipping Brentley to death, the Daily Mail reported. He appeared in court in a lime green jumpsuit, with shackles around his wrists and ankles.
Cameras inside the courtroom captured Joshua weeping while answering the judge's questions. His attorney said Brentley's death was a result of an accidental fall after Joshua dropped him while his wife was sleeping.
Joshua is reportedly currently in jail and on suicide watch. He was denied bond and will appear in court again on Jan. 31.
"I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and these kinds of cases break my heart," Shaddix told WXIA.
A GoFundMe page was set up to help the family pay for Brentley's medical expenses. The child had to have emergency surgery to remove a portion of his fractured skull, according to the page's description. Doctors were reportedly hoping to relieve some pressure from the swelling on Brentley's brain.
"Brentley is a precious 3 year old boy who was harmed by a such evil human being that we didn’t even think could exist," the account's description reads. "You never think something like this would happen to your family. Our hearts have been ripped out of our chest…"
The GoFundMe page has raised more than $2,190 of its $5,000 goal in just five days.