A 23-year-old Athol man was charged Monday in the death of a 2-1/2-year old boy who suffered a severe blow to the head.
Kevin B. Merwin was charged with injury to a child and could face five to 10 years in prison if convicted, according to Kootenai County sheriff’s officials.
Alexander Buss, son of Donald and Michelle Buss, died July 19 after being flown from Athol to Sacred Heart Medical Center the day before.
Donald and Michelle Buss are in the process of getting a divorce.
Merwin, who is dating the boy’s mother, has claimed the boy fell off a bed and hit his head.
But, “The injury the child sustained could not have been caused by a simple fall off a bed,” Detective Jerry Wiedenhoff said Monday.
The boy’s father also said Monday that he had been concerned about the way Merwin was disciplining his son for months.
“We made an agreement that Kevin (Merwin) would not discipline my children by spanking,” Donald Buss said. “But no matter how much talking I did it never mattered.”
The toddler died from “cranial cerebral trauma” - an injury to the back of his head, according to the Spokane County coroner.
A medical examination also turned up a bruise on Buss’ stomach and an internal injury, Wiedenhoff said.
Alexander and his sister spent July 18 at Merwin’s parents’ house on Lewellyn Creek Road near Athol, said Wiedenhoff.
Merwin had his own three children at the house that day, Wiedenhoff said. All the children ranged in age from 2 to 4 years old.
Michelle Buss left her children at the house at about 7:30 a.m. so she could go to work in the Sandpoint area, Wiedenhoff said. Merwin was the only adult home at the time.
The children had spent the hot day playing in a small wading pool outside. Merwin told detectives that Alexander looked tired so he took the toddler into the house to change his clothes and put him down for a nap, Wiedenhoff said.
Merwin turned his back to the boy, who was on the bed. The toddler then tumbled off the bed, hitting his head on a window sill or the floor, Merwin told deputies.
But medical experts believe it would have taken a fall from a much greater height or some kind of blow to the head to cause the injuries the boy suffered, Wiedenhoff said.
Wiedenhoff would not be specific about how they believe Merwin injured Alexander.
Donald Buss said he found out Merwin was “spanking” his children in January when his daughter told him, “Daddy, Kevin hit Alex.”
Buss’ children later told him that Merwin pushed Alexander off a deck at the house. But Michelle Buss told her husband that the boy jumped off the deck.
Buss said he no longer allows his 4-year-old daughter to go over to Merwin’s house, where her mother is.
Father and daughter instead are trying to deal with Alexander’s death.
“It’s not easy, she misses her brother,” Donald Buss said Monday. “I don’t let all the emotions out when I’m with her. She’s what keeps me together.”
Merwin, who has not been arrested, could not be reached Monday.