The 2-year-old boy who was beaten, killed and left at Madera gas station has been identified by family members as Emmanuel Burton.
The child was in the care of “family friend" Cornell Jackson, when he died last week, Chowchilla Police Department Lt. Jeff Palmer said. Police are waiting for the autopsy report to determine which injuries specifically caused the toddler’s death, he said.
The toddler’s uncle, Markus Johnson, 42, said he’s known the 39-year-old Cornell for more than 20 years and was surprised to find out he was a suspect in his nephew's slaying.
“He was just a normal 2-year-old kid,” the Madera resident told the Sun-Star in a phone interview Monday. “He liked to run around and have fun and I just don’t understand who would do this to a child.”
Chowchilla police believe the toddler was a victim of abuse because of the major injuries he suffered. The incident was originally reported as a drowning by Jackson, according to police.
Jackson called emergency medical responders on March 12 around 9:52 p.m., and said he was on the way to the hospital with a drowning victim. Police said they believe he later stopped his vehicle and left the unresponsive toddler and two other minors at a gas station.
Jackson is in custody without bail in Madera County, according to Madera County Superior Court records. He pleaded not guilty on March 15 to murder charges, infliction of torture and assault on a child, according to court records.
Jackson will appear in court Tuesday morning for a bail review, records show. His appointed attorney is Antonio Alvarez.
Jackson’s girlfriend, 35-year-old Monica Meza, was arrested on suspicion of felony child endangerment the night of the murder but her charges have since been dropped, court records show.
The Madera District Attorney's office declined to comment Monday, saying the investigation is ongoing.
Johnson said his nephew is survived by his mother, father, an older brother and older sister.
Monica Velez: 209-385-2486, @monicavelez21