PARMA, Ohio — A five-year-old boy with autism died Thursday afternoon in Parma and authorities were seen collecting evidence on the 4700 block of Russell Avenue for several hours as part of a homicide investigation.
According to police, a 31-year-old man was arrested in connection with his son's death.
Neighbors said the community has been shaken to its core.
“Right across from the school. It shouldn’t have happened,” Ryan Powell said. “It’s upsetting.”
Tributes are growing outside the family’s home, where the young boy’s toys remained in the driveway and neighbors told News 5 it’s a grim reminder of a life senselessly taken too soon.
“Two emotions of super sad and mad all, at the same time,” Amanda Bohach said.
A relative closely familiar with the situation asked for privacy for the family. She described the boy as delicate and full of life.
The Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services stated there is not currently an open investigation involving the family, but there have been investigations at the home in the past.
The most recent DCFS contact with the family was in 2019.
Jennifer Johnson of the Canopy Child Advocacy Center said that while it’s rare for a family situation involving a child to turn fatal, it is far more common in homes where psychological illnesses are untreated.
“It doesn't mean that just because you have mental health that your child is abused,” Johnson said. “It means that they're at higher risk for that if it's not managed well and maintained.”
Johnson said there are resources available for parents experiencing thoughts of self-harm or harming others.
“You can call and say, ‘I’m really struggling with my mental health and I have these kids that I love and I want to keep them, but I don't know what to do,’” Johnson said.
Call the 24-hour Crisis Hotline at 216-623-6888 if you or someone you know are in danger.