Neighbor says she called Detroit police to report harassment before 5-year-old boy died from child abuse

Couple was investigated for child abuse before Ethan Belcher was killed

DETROIT – It has been three weeks since 5-year-old Ethan Belcher was found dead in a Detroit home.

Ethan was found dead on Jan. 22, at a home on Spring Garden Street in Detroit. His 3-year-old brother was transported to a hospital for treatment.

Shane Robert Shelton, 27, and Valeria Lynn Hamilton, 27, both of Detroit, were charged with murder, child abuse, and torture in the death of their son. Hamilton is Ethan’s biological mother, and Shelton is his stepfather, officials said.

Lincoln Park police said they investigated reports of child abuse and placed the children with their grandmother. They said an evidence package was sent to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, but they did not get approval for a warrant.

The children were returned to Shelton and Hamilton. Child Protective Services returned the children to the couple twice after investigating abuse allegations.

Read: Why Ethan Belcher’s body is still at the Wayne County Morgue 16 days after his death

Neighbor says calls to police were not taken seriously

Deborah Jackson has been living in the same home on Spring Garden Street in Detroit for almost 40 years.

She said the block was relatively quiet until last spring, when Shelton and Hamilton moved in next door with several of their children.

Jackson said the home they moved into was severely damaged by water and fire. It sat vacant for more than a dozen years until the couple and their children moved in.

“I called the city when they moved in, and I said, ‘You sold this home?’” said Jackson.

Shelton bought the Detroit Land Bank house and moved right in. Jackson lives just feet away and said Shelton began using loud power tools at all hours.

Then he began harassing her and her autistic son, Jesse. She said at one point Shelton pulled a gun on her. She said she called police more than 30 times but the issues were never taken seriously.

“I was on the phone calling 911 every chance that I got because I couldn’t take it, Jesse couldn’t take it,” Jackson said. “I told them about the harassment. I told them about the continuous noise.”

Jackson said she didn’t witness any child abuse, but she did hear things that disturbed her.

“I think that baby started crying from, I think, about five that evening, and it went all night into the morning,” Jackson said. “And the baby stopped at some point. What I could not understand about the whole thing was that the gun being pulled on me that was not investigated. None of the complaints that I made was investigated.”

In a statement responding to Local 4′s request for comment, Detroit Police Department said:

Read: Lawmaker, family demand accountability after child abuse death of 5-year-old boy

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.