Spokane police arrested 23-year-old Joshua Burnett on Friday on suspicion that he killed his girlfriend’s toddler last month.
Rylee Castner, 18 months, died March 31 from blunt force trauma to his head, according to the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s office. The death was ruled a homicide.
Burnett, the child’s mother’s boyfriend at the time, was left alone with the boy, police Cmdr. Brad Arleth said at a news conference Friday afternoon. Burnett has no felony criminal record in Spokane County.
The boy’s father, Zac Castner, said he saw his son about a month before he died and was concerned about his ex-wife’s new boyfriend.
“I suspected him immediately” after the boy was hurt, Castner said after Friday’s arrest.
Arleth said that after injuring the toddler Burnett mocked the boy because he was unable to hold his head up.
The commander said the injury occurred at the boy’s mother’s home at 2104 W. Mansfield Court. Burnett was at the home frequently, police said, but didn’t live there.
Rylee’s “injuries were inflicted on purpose,” Arleth said.
On March 30, Rylee’s grandmother was holding the boy when she noticed he was lethargic and bleeding from his mouth, according to court records. An ambulance took him to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, where a police officer observed bruising under both of the child’s cheeks.
“The bruising appeared to be finger marks,” court documents said.
The boy also had a large bruise on his foot and an indentation on the left side of his head. He underwent surgery soon after his arrival at the hospital and died the next day.
The Medical Examiner’s office said Rylee suffered a partial skull fracture and had bleeding in his brain.
The boy’s father said he went to see his son at the hospital and saw Burnett there “showing no emotion.”
Castner said his ex-wife, who he described as a good mother, was distraught and crying but Burnett “was paying more attention to his cellphone and hat than her.”
Castner said he now lives in Pinehurst, Idaho, but saw Rylee and his other child, a 4-year-old boy, as much as he could. He described his youngest son as a happy, curious child who loved being outside.
“He was full of life,” his father said. “He had a big heart and a little body.”
Arleth said he doesn’t expect there to be charges against family members, although the investigation is ongoing. He said he couldn’t comment about any family members’ responsibility in the death, but that all parents need to be careful about who is around their children.
He added it was another example of a Spokane child abuse case caught too late.
“I think it’s time that (prevention) groups get some funding and get some more support to get out there with visiting nurses and child abuse prevention,” Arleth said, “and calling attention to this and providing some education so we can work together to stop this instead of catching people after they’ve already done it.”
Castner’s father said he plans to be at all of Burnett’s court hearings.
“I just want to see the little guy get the justice he deserves,” he said.