Conover man faces murder charge in baby’s death

A Conover man has been charged with murder after allegedly inflicting “horrific trauma” on a 7-month-old Newton boy who died Thursday at Levine Children’s Hospital, said Newton Police investigators.

Tyler Leroy Linebarger, 23, of Trillium Court in Conover, was originally charged with felony child abuse inflicting serious injury, but the charge was changed to murder after Chekeem Jamar Hickman Jr. died at 5:02 p.m. Thursday, police officials said.

Linebarger was being held under no bond at the Catawba County Detention Center, officials said.

He reportedly told Newton investigators the boy was sleeping on a sofa Wednesday morning when Linebarger went upstairs at the home on Sandalwood Court to take a shower. Linebarger said he came downstairs shortly after after 7 a.m. to find the boy lying on the floor, blue and not breathing.

The child’s mother, Amber Leigh Estep, told police her son had been fine when she left for work at 5:40 a.m.

An examination of the child at Catawba Valley Medical Center revealed recent and past injuries in various stages of healing that were severe in nature, police said. The boy was transported to Levine Children’s Hospital for treatment and immediately taken to surgery, where doctors found he had suffered severe internal injuries as a result of “horrific trauma,” officials said.

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