An investigation by Columbus police into the death of a 19-month-old boy led to the arrest of Thomas W. Gorski, 30, on a felony child neglect charge.
Preliminary autopsy results indicate that 19-month-old Evan Jack McCue, who was living with his mother, Rachel McCue, and Gorski at their home in the 2800 block of Lamplight Drive, died from an injury to his head, police said. The boy was pronounced dead Sunday night after a patrolman and paramedics, responding to the mother’s 911 call, tried to revive the toddler in the living room of the couple’s home.
Police spokesman Lt. Matt Myers declined to say what could have caused the toddler’s fatal head injury but said a police investigation is continuing, and other agencies are also involved, including the Indiana Department of Child Services.
“Obviously, the little fellow doesn’t have a voice anymore, and we have to find out exactly what happened,” Myers said shortly after Gorski was arrested at his home at 8:59 a.m. Wednesday.
Gorski was being held in the Bartholomew County Jail on a preliminary charge of neglect of a dependent resulting in death, a felony that would carry a sentence of 20 to 50 years in prison. Prosecuting Attorney Bill Nash declined to discuss the case, pending formal charges that would have to be presented in court.
Myers said the death investigation has expanded since Sunday night to include an inquiry into the condition of two other children, ages 1 and 3, that Gorski fathered in a separate relationship with a woman he married in 2009.
One of those children, a 1-year-old daughter, was examined this week at Indiana University Health Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis and was found to have an injury, the child’s grandmother said. Police confirmed they are making inquiries into how the injury could have occurred.
Sue Geilker, the grandmother, said Wednesday that Gorski’s 3-year-old son, who has no injuries, has been put into her protective custody by state child protection
officials. The 1-year-old was still in the hospital Wednesday, she said.
The grandmother said child protection officials encouraged the family to have both children examined by doctors after 19-month-old Evan died over the weekend.
“They told us it was because (Gorski) was around all his kids, and the thing with Evan, that we should make sure the other kids were OK,” Geilker said. “They’re telling us what we have to do, and we’re trying to do what they say.”
Myers said Patrolman Toby Combest was dispatched to the 2800 block of Lamplight Drive at 8:20 p.m. Sunday, where McCue and Gorski were waiting. They were the only people in the house other than the toddler, Myers said.
He said McCue told police she went into a bedroom where the toddler had been sleeping and found him unresponsive and no longer breathing. When Combest arrived, the toddler’s body had been carried into the living room. Combest and paramedics who arrived shortly after the patrolman tried to revive the boy without success.
Gorski isn’t the father of the deceased child, but the toddler was living at the Lamplight Drive home with his mother and Gorski, police said. Gorski’s other two children also were in the home on Lamplight Drive on some occasions, although their mother lives elsewhere.
“More than 25 individuals have been interviewed, and detectives have obtained 12 search warrants as part of the investigation,” Myers said Wednesday.
Police Chief Jason Maddix said 13 detectives — led by Detective Alan Hayes — have worked “24/7” on the case since Sunday. “We’ve pulled in as many resources as we can,” Maddix said after Gorski’s arrest.
The child’s death came a few weeks after his maternal grandparents — Robin and William McCue of Columbus — had filed a petition in Bartholomew County Circuit Court to win third-party custody or guardianship of their grandson. They had sought custody in an Oct. 5 petition, but a court hearing wasn’t due to take place in connection with that case until Dec. 21, Bartholomew County court documents show.
Gorski has had previous legal difficulties, including an incident in late August in which neighbors summoned Columbus police to the 2800 block of Lamplight Drive.
Geilker said her 3-year-old grandson had gotten out of the house on that occasion while Gorski was asleep, and the child “was roaming around the neighborhood.” She said a neighbor alerted police.
As a result of that episode, Myers said, Gorski was arrested Aug. 31 on two counts of neglect of a dependent, and the case was turned over to the county prosecutor’s office. County jail records show Gorski was held for 48 hours on the preliminary charge and then was released without having to post bond.
Nash, the prosecuting attorney, said no formal criminal charges have been filed in that case yet. He declined to discuss the specifics further because of state rules covering prosecutor’s professional conduct.
Officials with the Indiana Department of Child Services referred questions about the death to public relations consultant Stephanie McFarland, who handles media inquiries for the agency. McFarland said she couldn’t discuss the matter.