Lincoln Park police investigated child abuse before 5-year-old killed, 3-year-old injured

Detroit Police Chief says it’s the ‘worst abuse case’ he has ever seen

DETROIT – If Child Protective Services and police were aware of allegations of ongoing abuse in a Wayne County home, why was a 5-year-old killed and a 3-year-old found badly injured?

Detroit police officers were called at 1:07 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 22) to a home in the 14600 block of Spring Garden Street. When they arrived, officers saw 5-year-old Ethan Belcher being taken to an EMS truck.

Ethan was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. His 3-year-old brother was discovered with bruises on his head and face. The 3-year-old was transported to a hospital for treatment.

Shane Robert Shelton, 27, and Valeria Lynn Hamilton, 27, both of Detroit, have been 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.

Ethan’s aunt, Ashley Belcher, told Local 4 she reported the abuse to authorities 18 months ago. She said she took the child to a hospital. She also said she took photos of Ethan’s bruises and cuts and shared those photos with police.

“Ethan had bruises from head to toe. His head was all lumped up, I mean, his eye was almost split open. The bruises were so bad on his bottom he couldn’t even sit down,” she said.

Lincoln Park police said they launched an abuse investigation into Shelton and placed the children with their grandmother. Police said they spoke with everyone involved in the case and sent an evidence package to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

They did not get approval for an arrest warrant.

“They still ultimately went back to that home,” Belcher said.

The couple and the children moved into a home in Detroit. That’s where police found Ethan dead and his younger brother seriously injured.

“The worst abuse case I have ever seen, and I am not sensationalizing it,” Detroit Police Chief James White said. “The loss of this beautiful young life by someone that he trusted and loved and it’s just unspeakable. There are details about this case that I will never forget. And I know our officers won’t forget and it’s just horrible.”

Child Protective Services said they are not allowed to comment on specific cases. They did rerelease a statement that reads, “the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services was extremely saddened to hear about Ethan Belchers death and the department expresses its condolences to his loved ones. MDHHS will continue to work daily with law enforcement, community partners and others on prevention services.”

The couple is expected back in court for a probable cause conference at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 1, and a preliminary examination at 1:45 p.m. Feb. 8.

Previous story: Detroit mom, stepdad charged with abuse that killed 5-year-old son, injured 3-year-old

Valeria Lynn Hamilton (left) and Shane Robert Shelton (right). (Wayne County Prosecutor's Office)

About the Authors:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.

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