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Man charged with murder after allegedly beating a 2-year-old Canton boy to death, records show

Posted at 6:15 PM, Mar 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-18 18:20:46-04

CANTON, Ohio — A man was arrested and charged with murder after he allegedly beat a 2-year-old boy to death in Canton on Saturday morning, according to a news release from the Canton Police Department.

Officers responded to the 3500 block of Ellis Avenue around 8 a.m. for a report of an unresponsive child.

The two-year-old boy, later identified as Kai'ja DeRohn, was transported to Mercy Medical Center where he was pronounced dead a short time later, police said.

It appears that the boy was likely dead before arriving at the hospital, according to the Coroner's Office.

Detectives investigating the incident executed a search warrant at the Ellis Avenue address and arrested 38-year-old Antonio Hardeman, according to authorities.

Officials said Hardeman was the one who called police.

During the call, which lasted more than three minutes, Hardeman said "He's not breathing. He turned blue." Less than a minute later he told the operator, "He's cold. He's still."

According to Canton City Prosecutor Jason Reese, Hardeman told police he got angry with the child after he had an accident (urinated) on a couch.

Investigators believe the abuse happened a short time later.

According to Stark County Children Services, a baby was also in the home. The infant is now in the care of a relative or family friend. The agency has never filed paperwork for suspicion of abuse or neglect related to the family, a spokesman told News 5.

The victim's aunt, Tonya DeRohn, is heartbroken over the death of Kai'ja. She described her nephew as a happy boy who liked to make silly faces and watch cartoons.

"He was just a baby, an innocent baby. He did nothing to nobody," she said.

Tonya DeRohn believes her sister was at Walmart when the abuse happened.

Detective Joe Mongold said the investigation remains open, but Hardeman is the only suspect in the death of the toddler. Mongold would not elaborate on the statements the accused killer made to police.

"There's never a good reason why anything this horrific happens. The motivation behind the incident itself, I'm not at liberty to speak about at this time," Mongold said.

Hardeman has been charged with murder, felonious assault and endangering children, according to the news release.

According to records from the Stark County Jail, Hardeman allegedly "hit the boy in the mouth and struck his head against the headboard and wall, resulting in the death of the victim."

The incident is under investigation but is being treated as a homicide.

Further details will be released pending a report from the Stark County Coroner.