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October 22, 2013

Traverse City man charged in December death of toddler in Kalamazoo

KALAMAZOO — A Traverse City man remains jailed in Kalamazoo County on allegations he abused and killed a toddler in his care.

Toren Hains, 21, was charged with open murder, felony murder and first-degree child abuse after authorities said an autopsy showed Zoie Johnston, a 14-month-old girl he was babysitting, suffered a brain injury and had alcohol and marijuana in her system.

Kalamazoo County Undersheriff Paul Matyas said the toddler was unresponsive when deputies were dispatched Dec. 30 to an Oshtemo Township apartment and died after being transported to Bronson Methodist Hospital. Matyas said an initial interview with Hains in which several suspicious “statements” were made prompted a forensic autopsy.

“We needed an autopsy report to really proceed,” said Kalamazoo County Undersheriff Paul Matyas.

The autopsy report completed in July found an injury to the toddler’s brain and detected alcohol and THC, the primary psychoactive component in marijuana, in her blood. Matyas said that finding led investigators to conduct more interviews.

“Armed with the autopsy report we spent a month or so tracking people down about this situation,” he said.

Matyas said Hains was not the child’s father. He said the toddler’s mother moved to Texas after the incident.

Hains was arrested Oct. 3 on a warrant and arraigned in Kalamazoo County’s 8th District Court where a judge denied his bond. A preliminary examination is scheduled for Oct. 31 and Turpel said he’ll ask the judge to set a bond.

Hains’ court-appointed attorney Keith Turpel said his client was living in the Kalamazoo area with his girlfriend when the incident occurred. Turpel said he’s in the process of breaking down the evidence described in the police report and may petition the court to pay for expert defense witnesses.

“I think there’s some gaps, but we’re still investigating, so to speak,” he said.

Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting said he couldn’t comment on the pending case.

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