Father accused of toddler’s murder

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) – At just 2 years old, Nehemiah Dodd was taken away from his mother and sent to live with his dad. Less than a month later, Nehemiah was dead.

The Kalamazoo County Prosecutor’s Office Thursday issued charges of felony murder and first-degree child abuse  for Nehemiah’s father, named as Brian Keith Roberts in court records. Roberts, 40, was arrested by KDPS detectives.

Nehemiah’s mother Angelena Dodd described her son as “happy all the time.”

“Smiles. Never really knew anything was wrong with him. Bright. A beautiful kid. He was a blessing,” she said. “He was a blessing.”

But she squandered that blessing.

The state permanently removed Nehemiah and his older brother from Dodd after she was arrested in on Aug. 9, 2013 driving a stolen car with crack cocaine, and with the boys as passengers.

“I had some issues in my life, but I don’t think with all my issues in my life … this should be the outcome,” she said.

Kalamazoo Family Circuit Court ordered the oldest son to live with other relatives because nobody knew who his father was.

On Dec. 6, Nehemiah was sent to live with his father.

“A month of him being with him, he dies,” Dodd said.

Nehemiah was found unconscious and not breathing in the 400 block of W. Frank St. on Dec. 31, 2013, police said. Responding officers tried to revive the boy, and he was taken to Bronson Methodist Hospital.

Nehemiah died on Jan. 2.

The prosecutor’s office filed the charges against Roberts after detectives investigated the situation at the home where Nehemiah was found and results from an autopsy on the toddler’s body became available.

Dodd was told Nehemiah died of a blow to the head.

“I don’t think my child could make somebody even go off the deep end like that, so I don’t know why he did what he did,” Dodd said. “I don’t know. I’m looking for answers myself. I couldn’t see Nehemiah doing anything to be dead.”

A woman whose family had tried to help Dodd and her sons questions the court’s custody ruling.

“You always hope that when a child is pulled away from a parent that they’re being placed in a better situation,” family friend Karen Hokenson said. “Any time a child is abused and killed at the hand of a parent, there’s no way to understand it.”

Roberts is being held in the Kalamazoo County Jail on a $250,000 bond.

In the meantime, the Office of Child Ombudsman, a state watchdog agency, has opened up an investigation into how the Department of Human Services handled Nehemiah’s case.

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