An infant’s skull is cracked, and mom’s boyfriend questioned in death

Eric Patrick Neri
Eric Patrick Neri

A 10-month-old girl who died after being in the care of her mother’s boyfriend had multiple skull fractures, bruises above both her eyes and on both her legs, according to the Bradenton Police Department.

The infant’s 3-year-old brother is being treated at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg for a brain bleed and multiple bruises, according to Detective Lt. James Racky.

Eric Patrick Neri, 21, of Bradenton, was babysitting the two children Tuesday when at least some of the children’s injuries occurred, police said. He is being questioned about the infant’s death.

Neither of the children are related to Neri.

Neri turned himself in at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. He had been sought since Tuesday evening after warrants were issued charging him with child abuse and child neglect.

“We can definitely can prove abuse and neglect to both kids,” Racky said.

Additional charges are pending as investigators work to determine how the infant girl died and who is responsible.

An autopsy was done Wednesday morning, but further testing is being conducted to make a final determination on the cause and manner of death. The skull fractures were the only obvious signs the medical examiner could identify, according to Racky.

As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, Neri was still being questioned by detectives. He was cooperating with the investigation, police said.

On Tuesday afternoon, the children’s grandmother went to where the children were under Neri’s care, the investigation has revealed.

“She saw the 10-month-old was cold to the touch and unresponsive,” Racky said, adding that she then rushed only the infant to Manatee Memorial Hospital while leaving the older child with Neri.

Bradenton police responded to the hospital less than 30 minutes later when they were notified about a deceased infant.

Soon afterward, police began searching for Neri and the 3-year-old who was believed to still be in his care, Racky said. Several hours passed before Bradenton police were contacted by a family member who had the boy. Investigators asked the family member to deliver the child to the police station.

“The 3-year-old is still at All Children's,” Racky said.

The children’s mother is there with him and is also cooperating with the investigation, he said.

The child’s death is also being reviewed by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Child Protective Division and the Florida Department of Children and Families.

“The loss of this young child is devastating,” DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said in a statement issued to the Bradenton Herald. “DCF will assist and MCSO in any way possible in their investigation.”