DETROIT – The mother of a 5-year-old who died in a horrifying case of child abuse was back in front of a judge.
Valerie Hamilton and her boyfriend, Shane Shelton, face multiple charges, including murder, for the death of 5-year-old Ethan Belcher.
Belcher’s tragic death has a far-reaching impact. His family is undoubtedly devastated, but in Lansing, his name is the fuel behind proposed legislation that would force Michigan’s Child Protective Services to face public oversight that it currently avoids.
State Senator Jim Runestad spelled it out on the Senate floor Wednesday (Feb. 1) afternoon.
“What we are seeing can only be described as nothing short of a disaster,” said Runestad.
Read: Deadly abuse of 5-year-old boy has Michigan senator working to change CPS information law
The Senate floor speech came just hours after Hamilton dabbed tears from her eyes as she faced a probable cause hearing in court Wednesday morning.
Hamilton appeared, but Shelton did not.
Police pulled Belcher’s battered, lifeless body from a ramshackle Detroit home last week. His mother and stepfather are facing felony murder, torture, and child abuse.
“Channel 4 news reporters attempted to investigate CPS’s interactions with the family using the freedom of information act but were denied,” Runestad said.
In his speech, Runestad pointed to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s comment to Local 4 last week about state law exempting CPS from freedom of information requests.
“You’re educating me right now, and I think there is perhaps an opportunity for us to take a real hard look at it and see what more we can do,” said Whitmer.
Runestad brought a bill to the Senate floor Wednesday to do just that.
“This agency cannot be allowed to operate with total stonewalling secrecy when there are so many innocent lives at risk,” Runestad said.
Belcher’s family wants to have the funeral they cannot afford this week, and Runestad says he’s looking for bipartisan support for a bill than can prevent further tragedies like the 5-year-old’s death.
“Colleagues, we must do more, and we must start doing more right now,” Runestad said.
Thursday morning, Runestad and Belcher’s aunts, Ashley Belcher and Candace Rush will be holding a news conference in Lansing to speak more about Ethan’s death and work to get more support for the bill seeking to have more public oversight of child protective services.
Hamilton and Shelton will be in court for what promises to be a lengthy preliminary exam on Feb. 21.
There is a GoFundMe page for the family, and they’ve brought in about half of what they need to bury the 5-year-old.
‘A house of terror’: What officials are saying about CPS after 5-year-old was killed in Detroit
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