• No murder charges filed yet despite boy's death at Orange County inn being ruled homicide


    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A man is now facing charges in the case of a 2-year-old boy who died after he was found unresponsive in an Orange County motel on June 2, Channel 9 has learned.

    Investigators have ruled Justin Polk Jr.'s death a homicide, saying he died from blunt force trauma and also showed signs of strangulation.

    Jonathan Charapata, the boyfriend of the toddler's mother, was with the boy when he was found unresponsive at the Countryside Inn on Lee Road, according to deputies. Charapata was arrested on child abuse charges Saturday and his bond was set at $100,000.

    Justin's mother, 23-year-old Merissa Anderson, is jailed on neglect charges. Her bond was set at $80,000.

    An autopsy revealed Justin was beaten and strangled, but neither Charapata nor Anderson has been charged with murder in the case.

    Detectives said they're working tirelessly to build their homicide case.

    "We're still working really hard," said Detective Danny Garciapagan of the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

    At Charapata's first court appearance Sunday, the judge said his charges had been upgraded to aggravated child abuse due to the nature of the children's injuries.

    On Saturday, Anderson, who has two other children, faced an Orange County judge after being arrested on child neglect and failing to report abuse charges.

    "Bonds are going to be increased as follows, based upon the charging affidavit," the judge said during the first appearance.

    Her public defender told the judge she couldn't afford the $80,000 bond amount and asked him to reconsider.

    "She indicates no stable place, she indicates transient, the ties to the community are tenuous, the facts of the case are serious," the judge said.

    According to Anderson's arrest affidavit, the mother was living with Charapata at the inn and is pregnant with her and Charapata's first child.

    Anderson claimed her children are clumsy and fight a lot, but new documents show Charapata admitted to leaving bruises on the children from grabbing and even biting them, though he claims he was just playing.

    Justin's father, Justin Polk Sr., spoke to Channel 9 about his son's death.

    "I just want answers, I want to know what happened," he said. "I knew from day one something was going on with the kids."

    Polk told Channel 9 he believed Anderson was being investigated by the Department of Children and Families.

    "That's what DCF is there for, to protect kids, and they failed big time," Polk said.

    Channel 9 obtained documents Friday that show Justin had "bruising to his forehead" and "both sides of his torso near his ribcage."

    The records also show that Justin's young brother and sister were taken to a Florida Hospital and that his sister had two left rib fractures.

    "The other children in the hospital have also been abused and that really is heartbreaking," said Kristi Gray with DCF.

    Authorities said the family has been involved in two other incidents in the past year with allegations of inadequate supervision and domestic violence, but deputies didn't find substantial problems in those cases.

    Domestic violence was found by DCF investigators during a 2012 incident, but there is no information available on who was involved.

    A court ruled last week that none of the adults involved are fit to care for the surviving children, so they were placed in DCF custody.

    The Sheriff's Office said the homicide is an open and active investigation.

    Next Up: