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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Chattaroy woman suspected in death of 5-year-old nephew

Investigators are not convinced that Gary Blanton III died because he hurt himself falling out of bed, as his aunt claimed on April 17.

The 5-year-old boy, who became an orphan after both of his parents died, had been staying with his aunt in Chattaroy. According to court records, she was the only adult in the home when first responders arrived at 8 a.m. to find the boy unconscious with a severe head injury – later identified as a skull fracture – and numerous large bruises on his body.

The aunt, Cynthia L. Khaleel, was arrested Thursday on a second-degree murder charge for Blanton’s death. She is accused of delivering “very serious abusive trauma” following a three-month-long investigation that determined Blanton could not have died from a short fall onto his carpeted bedroom floor.

“It is entirely implausible that (Blanton’s) constellation of injuries would have resulted from such an event,” a doctor is quoted as saying in court records.

Shortly after medical personnel arrived at the home they airlifted the boy to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. As he lay dying, a hospital employee called 911 to report that his injuries likely were not accidental. A medical examiner identified a brain injury as the cause of death and later discovered damage to organs in his abdomen, court records say.

Khaleel, who also uses the last name Rose, is being held in the Spokane County Jail on a $100,000 bond. A message left for her lawyer, Public Defender Keegan Lynch, was not returned Friday.

Khaleel, 28, has three biological children and took in her brother’s three children last August after they were orphaned. Their father, Gary Blanton Jr., was murdered in 2012 at age 28. The killer, Patrick Drum, shot Blanton Jr. and another man as part of a plot to execute registered sex offenders in Clallam County. Blanton Jr. had pleaded guilty to raping a deaf girl when they both were 17, according to an article in the Atlantic. Drum is imprisoned on a life sentence.

Following the murder of their father, the Blanton children lost their mother, Leslie, who died last July of pneumonia at age 37, according to the Clallam County Coroner’s Office.

Left without parents, Blanton and his brother and sister became wards of the Hoh Tribe for several days before being placed in their aunt’s custody, according to court records. Khaleel moved into the Chattaroy home to better care for the six children in her custody, she told investigators. Her husband, Ian Khaleel, works at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas.

Blanton had trouble communicating and learning, and a teacher reported he once climbed on a bookshelf at school, according to court documents. But according to others who worked with him, he was not overly prone to falling or getting hurt, court records say.

At about 5 a.m. on the morning of his death, his aunt told investigators she heard a bang and found the boy on the floor crying and complaining that his ear hurt, court documents say. She said she believed he may have fallen while climbing on his 4-year-old brother’s crib, but checked him and found no visible injuries.

She told investigators she gave him children’s Motrin, believing he was uninjured, and put him back to bed with his head elevated. At 8 a.m., she was unable to wake him and called 911. He died later that day.

In November 2013, Khaleel was living in Pasco with a previous partner, according to court records. One day she was alone with two children when the man’s 2-year-old fell out of a third-floor window. Khaleel told Pasco police the children were both jumping on a bed and bounced into each other, knocking the child out of the window, court records say.

Investigators spoke with a Chattaroy School District employee who worked with Blanton. The boy, who referred to his aunt as Mommy, told the employee “Mommy punched me” on April 15 and complained his head hurt, according to court documents.

Blanton’s aunt was the subject of a report by Child Protective Services last December after he arrived at school with multiple bruises, injuries and scratches. She told CPS that the injuries were due to accidents in which the boy fell.

Another teacher said Blanton came to school last October with a large bandage covering a burn on his forehead, which Khaleel called a sunburn, according to court documents.

CPS removed the remaining five children from Khaleel’s custody the day after Blanton’s death.

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