By Deanese Williams-Harris
3:36 PM CDT, September 8, 2013
A funeral has been set for a murdered Maywood toddler after DNA tests have confirmed the identity of a body found on a bank of the Des Plaines River.
After four months, DNA testing confirmed that the body found in the Des Plaines River was Bryeon Hunter, according to Dawn Valenti, a spokeswoman for New Beginnings Church, where a funeral has been scheduled for 10-11 a.m. Sept. 13.
In April, Bryeon's mother, LaKeshia Baker, 22, reported the child had been kidnapped, but investigators quickly determined that the kidnapping did not occur. Police said Baker later told investigators that her boyfriend, Michael Scott, 21, had beaten the toddler with a belt and plastic hangers on April 15 and had left the boy on the bathroom floor of their Maywood apartment.
Police said the couple confessed to disposing of the toddler's body but gave conflicting stories about where it was put in the river and by whom.
Baker and Scott, both of the 300 block of South 10th Avenue in Maywood were charged with Bryeon's death. Baker was denied bail and Scott was ordered held in April on $750,000 bail, according to court records.
Prosecutors said after the beating, the couple disposed of the child's lifeless body in a backpack before making up an elaborate story that the child had been abducted.
Baker, who appeared in court with two black eyes, admitted to authorities that she had beaten her son with a belt while Scott covered the child's mouth so that the boy's grandmother would not hear the boy scream, prosecutors said. She said Scott was beating the baby with plastic hangers when the boy's grandmother, who lived in a downstairs apartment, yelled: " 'What's going on up there,' " prosecutors said.
The next day, the baby spent the morning lying on the bathroom floor, bruised, not moving and struggling to breath. Soon the couple realized he was dead, prosecutors said.
Baker and Scott allegedly folded the baby's body up, stuffed it into a backpack and Scott left the apartment with the bag, said prosecutors.
When he came back, he told Baker he had dumped the body in the water near First Avenue and Oak Street in Maywood. But Scott told police it was Baker who had dumped the body near a McDonald's at First Avenue and Lake Street, prosecutors said.
Police found the backpack and the clothes Bryeon was wearing but couldn't locate his body.
About a month later, his body was found north of 31st Street near Brookfield Zoo by a kayaker who had noticed a strong odor. He approached a pile of logs and noticed the body, face up and caught on one of the logs.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said the body was significantly decomposed.
This morning, a representative of New Beginnings Church said DNA tests confirmed the boy's identity and said that funeral services would be held Sept. 13 at the church. She said flower and toy donations could be sent to the church at 6620 S. King Drive in honor of Bryeon.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC