PAW PAW TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Mathew Tanner, who died the day after he was being watched by his mother’s boyfriend, had injuries similar to “a severe car accident,” the Van Buren County sheriff said.
The child’s mother testified to police that her son was completely fine the day before April 23, 2021, and in the hours leading up to his death. She even took a photo with him before leaving him with her boyfriend, Jacob Tanner, to go to an appointment at 10 a.m. that day, she told investigators.
At a probable cause hearing on Friday, a detective with the Hartford Police Department outlined the events that Tanner alleges happened while Matthew’s mother was gone.
“After (his mother) left, little Matthew woke up. (Tanner) made him some eggs and sausage, got him out of the crib, changed his diaper,” the detective told a judge, based on Tanner’s account to investigators.
It was a seemingly normal morning. Tanner said Matthew did not eat much, except orange juice. Soon after, Tanner told police, that the child threw up the orange juice. He was looking pale and running a temperature. So, he put the child in a cool bath where he seemed to get better.
Then, Tanner told investigators that he put Matthew down for a nap.
Matthew’s mother told police that she had received a text message from Tanner while she was gone from the home, indicating that her son had fallen while on a Sit ‘n Spin toy and bumped his chin. When she asked if her son was OK, he said Matthew was fine.
Initially, Tanner told detectives that Matthew may have fallen while he was on the Sit ‘n Spin, but he did not personally see it happen.
When his mother returned at 12:45 p.m., Tanner brought Matthew over to her, unresponsive and making a moaning sound, she told investigators.
She said they called Tanner’s mother, a doctor, who advised them to take Matthew to the E.R. and call 911. They called 911 and drove straight to the hospital. Tanner gave his statement to detectives there.
When Matthew was brought to Watervliet emergency room, there was “suspicion immediately,” Van Buren County sheriff Dan Abbott said.
The boy had to be airlifted to a Kalamazoo hospital. After several surgeries, 18-month-old Matthew died the next day, April 24, 2021, at Bronson Children’s hospital. Police ruled his death a homicide.
In the autopsy, pathologists ruled the manner of death as “complications from blunt force trauma,” the Hartford police detective at the probable cause hearing said. Pathologists said Matthew’s body had bruising and hemorrhaging on his head and abdomen. Abbott said the child’s injuries were “comparable to that of an injury of a severe car accident.”
Eventually, the investigation narrowed the suspect down to Tanner. He has been charged with child abuse in the first degree and open murder, according to county jail records.