N.C. professor arrested after adopted newborn died from injuries he sustained from alleged abuse
04/14/2022 1:12 pm PDT
GASTONIA, N.C. (TCD) -- A 42-year-old professor was recently arrested after his adopted 6-week-old son died from injuries he sustained from alleged abuse.
According to a press release from the Gastonia Police Department, on April 1 at approximately 10 a.m., officers responded to a home on Prancer Lane to a report of an infant in cardiac arrest. Police say the 6-week-old infant, Lucas Birchim, was transported to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Upon further investigation, police say the infant’s injuries "were consistent with being physically abused." The newborn reportedly suffered a fractured skull, multiple fractures in each leg, a broken rib, and other injuries. An arrest warrant was reportedly obtained for the infant’s adoptive father, Van Erick Custodio.
According to WSOC-TV, Custodio adopted the infant weeks prior to the alleged abuse. An arrest warrant obtained by WSOC says friends of Custodio told authorities that Custodio admitted he "threw the child on the sofa and also squeezed the child, hearing a pop in the rib area." The friends also allege that while changing the baby’s diaper, Custodio "jerked the legs of the child back and felt a pop in the child’s legs."
On April 11, Custodio was arrested on one count of felony child abuse — severe bodily injury in South Carolina, police say. On April 13, he was reportedly extradited back to Gaston County and remains held on $500,000 bond.
On April 13, the infant succumbed to his injuries in the hospital, and as of April 14, police say Custodio was charged with first-degree murder.
According to WSOC, Custodio was working as an adjunct professor for UNC Charlotte. In a statement to WSOC, the university said, "UNC Charlotte hired Van Erick Custodio on a limited, temporary contract to teach one class this semester in an adjunct capacity. He has been placed on administrative leave, and another faculty member will cover this class for the remainder of the semester."
Custodio had also reportedly worked for Belmont Abbey College.
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