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Baby suffers 'horrific trauma,' mother's boyfriend charged

A Catawba County man is charged after police say his girlfriend's baby was found unresponsive and not breathing in his care on Wednesday morning.

Police arrived at 711 Sandalwood Court to assist EMS around 7:20 a.m. and found the 7-month-old baby unresponsive. Tyler Leroy Linebarger, 23, told police the baby was sleeping on the sofa and when he came downstairs, the child was lying on the floor. He said he then put the child back on the sofa, went back upstairs, and when he came downstairs the child was blue and not breathing.

According to police, Linebarger said he went to a neighbor's apartment to call 911.

Amber Leigh Estep, the child's mother, who was on scene, told police she saw her son at 5:40 a.m. when she left for work and that he was fine. The child was taken to Catawba Valley Medical Center and then to Levine's Children's Hospital in Charlotte for immediate surgery. Doctors said the child had severe internal injuries in various parts of the his body that were a result of "horrific trauma."

The doctors said several of the injuries were old and in the stage of healing.

Police returned to locate Linebarger for an interview but instead got his mother, who said she would find him and bring him to police. Linebarger arrived at Newton Police Headquarters but refused to be speak with investigators without counsel present.

At 12:26 a.m. Thursday, Linebarger was arrested and charged with felony child abuse inflicting serious injury. He was taken to the Catawba County Detention Center and given a $175,000 secured bond. Police say they are investigating and that additional charges are possible.

The baby is listed in critical and unstable condition.