Courts & Crime

Indictment: Mom knew boy was being tortured, did nothing

BOISE, Idaho — Eight-year-old Robert Manwill was beaten over weeks of "escalating physical violence" that finally climaxed in his death, according to details released Wednesday in the indictments of his mom and her boyfriend.

Ada County Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg said the boy died from blunt force trauma "on or about" the July 24 night he was reported missing.

State officials won't say how Robert and his 16-month-old half brother Aidan were allowed back in the home with their mother, Melissa Jenkins, who just months earlier had pleaded guilty to fracturing Aidan's skull.

Health and Welfare officials won't release details on any child protection cases in the home. Custody documents for Robert show that Melissa Jenkins had the right to see her son seven weeks each summer.

Two short but shocking indictments filed against Jenkins and her boyfriend, Daniel Ehrlick Jr., offer the most detailed glimpse of what police and prosecutors say happened. A grand jury contends that violence against the boy started as early as June.

It's unclear whether Robert was staying the whole time in the Oak Park Village apartment his mother and her boyfriend shared; neither police nor family members are saying.

But the indictments indicate that state officials may have been monitoring the family. According to the grand jury, Jenkins "did actively and repeatedly hide (Robert) from government authorities" and kept "other persons from observing the ongoing harm."

The indictments - charging both Jenkins and Ehrlick with first-degree murder and failure to report a death - were graphic.

The grand jury said Ehrlick repeatedly abused Robert and eventually killed the boy by the "intentional application of torture ... by inflicting extreme or prolonged pain with the intent to cause suffering, to execute vengeance, or to satisfy some sadistic inclination, by inflicting repeated acts of blunt force trauma to the abdomen and/or head of Robert Manwill."

Many of the terms used in the indictment were taken directly from Idaho's law on first-degree murder. Officials haven't released any specific details of how the abuse played out.

The indictment against Robert's mother, though, said she "had active knowledge of Robert's bodily injuries, visible bruises and other physical and emotional harm." The indictment says she not only failed to protect or seek medical attention for Robert, but she kept his abuse from others.

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