Medical evidence results in cold case murder charge
A man has been charged with murder just weeks after police reopened a cold investigation into the death of a baby twin.
Karlos Stephens was just 10 months old when he died in Rotorua Hospital in November 2014 and the senior detective leading the inquiry said the explanation for his injuries was “vague”.
The cold case is similar to one of New Zealand’s most infamous child-abuse cases — the deaths of the Kahui twins in 2006 — in that only a small number of adults were in the house with Karlos and his twin brother in the days leading to his suspicious death.
“We’ve never been totally happy with the version of events we’ve been given,” Detective Senior Sergeant Lindsay Pilbrow told the Herald three weeks ago.
Detective Inspector Mark Loper confirmed a 59-year-old man had been charged with murder and appeared in the Rotorua District Court yesterday.
The man, whose name was suppressed, was remanded in custody without plea.
He could not comment further as the matter was before the courts.
But in a previous interview, Pilbrow said new medical opinions from experts in Scotland and Australia, reviewed by others in New Zealand, gave the investigation team more certainty the injuries suffered by Karlos were not accidental.
Pilbrow would not be drawn on the exact nature of the injuries — or what possibly caused them — other than to say Karlos suffered “significant” head injuries.
Karlos and his twin brother were living with extended family at the time of his death on November 30, 2014.
Those caregivers were not home in the days when the injuries were likely to have been inflicted and had been co-operative with police, said Pilbrow.
But the severe nature of Karlos’ injuries did not match with the explanations given by the adults living in the house, which Pilbrow described as vague.
“The explanation would be . . . there’s a lack of explanation,” said Pilbrow.
“There’s a lack of explanation from a small number of specific people who had care of these young children around the events of the weekend, the night before, and how this young baby could have received these injuries.”
Pilbrow urged anyone with knowledge of what happened to tell the police.
“Baby Karlos isn’t here now to speak for himself. There are people who know what happened and they need to step forward.”
Bay of Plenty has one of the worst rates of child abuse in New Zealand.
“This is yet another case of a young child who has, on the face of it received significant injuries, which has led to his death,” he said.
“I think it’s important people be very vigilant as to what’s going on in family and friends’ homes. ”
New Zealand has one of the worst rates of child abuse in the developed world.
The actual numbers of child homicides can vary, depending on source, as investigations into suspicious deaths can take months or even years to finalise.
But data released this week shows 82 children younger than 5 were victims of murder or manslaughter between 2007 and 2016 — or 12 per cent of all homicides over the time period.
Karlos Stephens died when he was just 10 months old.