Coroner: No cause of death for boy in Ohio woods
Written by DAN SEWELL, Associated Press   
Tuesday, 04 June 2013 06:14

CINCINNATI (AP) — A mother told investigators a 1-year-old boy whose body was found buried in the woods had suffered from pneumonia, police said Monday.

A coroner said the cause of the boy's death remained uncertain. Highland County coroner Dr. Jeff Beery said initial examination didn't show any obvious reasons for the boy's death. He said X-rays don't indicate any broken bones or other major trauma to the boy's body.

Whitney Johnson, who lives in Kentucky, told investigators that the boy, Garin Niehaus, died from illness, Hillsboro police Chief Nick Thompson said.

"She claims he was sick," Thompson said, adding he didn't know her explanation for why the boy was secretly buried near Hillsboro.

Police also weren't sure when and where the boy died. Johnson had previously lived in Hillsboro, more than a two-hour drive from Richmond, Ky., which is where she and her boyfriend, Nathan Ritze, who's not the boy's father, were living when arrested last week.

Johnson, 26, and Ritze, 25, on Monday agreed to return to Ohio from Richmond. They're each charged with abuse of a corpse and evidence tampering.

They were in police custody and couldn't be reached for comment Monday. Police said they didn't have any information on attorneys for the couple, who would remain jailed in Hillsboro pending a Wednesday court appearance.

Two other children were removed from the couple's home in Richmond and turned over to the Kentucky children's services agency, police said.

Relatives, including the boy's father, Ian Niehaus, said they hadn't seen the boy since last year. Thompson, the police chief, said police got a call last Thursday expressing concern about the boy and the other two children and saying the mother was in Richmond. Richmond police investigated, finding the other two children at home. Thompson said Johnson gave police directions on where to find the boy's buried body.

Thompson said to his knowledge the boy had not been reported missing.

Highland County prosecutor Anneka Collins said it's too early in the investigation to discuss what her office plans to do with the case, which likely would go before a grand jury to decide what, if any, charges the couple would face in a trial.

Beery said the Montgomery County coroner's office in Dayton will conduct extensive laboratory tests to determine the cause of the boy's death.

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.


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