MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (AP) — Two separate missing children cases, then two stunning deaths reported within five days of each other.
Two children thrown from bridges into the same river, still not found as two communities within 40 miles of each other reel from the disturbing details that have come to light.
“We’ve been through so much in the last year with the pandemic and there’s already been so much loss and kind of pain and suffering associated with that,” said the Rev. Kevin Aldridge. Aldridge grew up in Middletown, the city where 6-year-old James Hutchinson was killed, and is a youth minister in Cincinnati, where 3-year-old Nylo Lattimore was killed.
“I think people just have a very strong reaction in terms of it overall, just being horrified,” added Aldridge, who works with young people at Allen Temple AME church.
Neighbor Lindsey Piper was recently standing in front of the home where James lived, its sidewalk and front yard transformed into a memorial of balloons, candles, toys and handwritten messages.
“It’s just crazy for this to happen next door,” she said. “Being a mother myself, and pregnant with another one, it’s hard to believe.”
James was fatally injured after being dragged by a minivan as his mother was speeding away in a sprawling state wildlife area, police reported.
His mother, Brittany Gosney, 29, was charged Feb. 28 with murder and has said her boyfriend, James Hamilton, 42, had wanted her to get rid of her three children. Hamilton is also facing charges.
“It has touched everyone in Middletown,” said Katie Wendeln, clinical director for youth services at Access Counseling Services in the working-class city of nearly 49,000 people. “I know that there have been people who did not have any connection to James or his family and they have brought it up in their sessions, that it’s been very hard for them.”
Not far away, in Cincinnati, Desean Brown, 21, is being held without bond on charges including aggravated murder in the deaths of Nyteisha Lattimore and her toddler son, Nylo.
Authorities believe Nylo was still alive when he was thrown off a pedestrian bridge sometime after his mother’s stabbing death in December. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced the charges Feb. 24.
The veteran prosecutor said the case has given him nightmares.
“I can’t even imagine what that little boy was going through,” he said.
Marcia Cooper, an aunt who is raising Nylo’s older brother, said she was “devastated” when she heard what happened to Nylo. “I couldn’t believe it. It’s been tough,” she told the Journal-News of Hamilton.
The news of the Hutchinson boy’s death, Cooper said, “opened the wounds again.”
Aldridge said the two cases, coming so close together in two nearby cities, not only have angered and saddened people, they have raised questions about children living in dangerous situations.
“What more can we do to make sure there are no more Nylo Lattimores or James Hutchinsons?” asked Aldridge, who took part in a March 2 vigil for James at his hometown’s football stadium.
“It’s a shame, just a shame,” said Teresa Vick, a Middletown resident who drove by James’ home recently to view the makeshift memorial. “He touched a lot of people.”
Brown’s attorney, Scott Rubenstein, declined comment on the Lattimore death case.
“Obviously, they are very serious allegations,” said Gosney’s attorney, David Washington. “I’ve seen what’s been purported. I haven’t seen the evidence.”
There have been joint vigils and a balloon release in the two cities to honor James and Nylo together.
“A lot of people started thinking about their own kids, their grandkids,” said Aldridge, who is also pastor of the Bethel AME Church in Bellefontaine, Ohio. “Maybe being a little bit more thankful for their children, and hug them a little bit tighter.”
Search and recovery crews Saturday continued searching the Ohio River banks in Cincinnati and nearby Lawrenceburg, Indiana, after several days of heavy rain brought the search to a standstill.
Crews reported no findings that afternoon.