Father Beat Five-Year-Old to Death: Cops

Five-year-old Leon Walker spent his final hours with his hands bound together with an electric cord, squirming to avoid more blows from a belt, begging to be untied.

His father, Leon D. Burns, admitted to police he had "probably went too far" on Wednesday, the day Leon died from a broken neck, his body covered with "deep bruises," court records state.

Burns, 28, and his live-in girlfriend, Rochell Johnson, 32, were both charged Friday with eight felonies in connection with Leon's beating death. Johnson admitted to police she was present while her boyfriend punched and beat Leon at the home they shared at 3973 Virginia St. in Gary, Ind.

The couple are being held without bond at Lake County, Ind., Jail on charges of murder, neglect of a dependent, battery and false informing, Gary police Detective Sgt. William Fazekas said.

Leon was pronounced dead at Methodist Hospitals Northlake campus emergency room at 8:44 p.m. Wednesday, but was likely dead when he arrived, police said.

"The cause of Leon's death was from the C1 vertebrae being separated by force from Leon's skull, causing instant death," the coroner's report states.

"He was a major liar," Burns told police after his son died. He admitted striking the boy after Leon "lied about eating a roll from the stove," and said in the last three months since he's been seeing the boy regularly he would hit him "two to three times a week," the probable cause affidavit states.

Johnson told police Burns would tie Leon during the beatings because the child was "moving too much." On other occasions, Burns forced the child to perform exercises "because the boy was being disrespectful."

Although the couple first claimed the boy had been with his mother, Turquoise Walker, in the hours immediately preceding his death, Detective Michael Barnes learned Walker had been in a closed rehabilitation center for two weeks and had not seen Leon.

Burns told more than one version to explain Leon's injuries, but admitted he had "grabbed his son a little too hard and that might be how his son injured his head." Police said Leon had ligature marks on his wrists, ankles and around his neck.

Johnson said her boyfriend "never untied Leon the whole day of April 28 and that young Leon kept asking Burns to untie him and he promised to be good," the probable cause affidavit states.

"Burns told young Leon he didn't believe him," the affidavit states.

After dinner on Wednesday night, Leon was still restrained and asking to be let loose. His father became angry, Johnson told Detective James Bond and Fazekas. "She could hear Burns hitting young Leon with the belt and possibly a cord and young Leon was screaming and crying ... she heard what sounded like several punches and young Leon stopped crying ... he was still tied up but wasn't moving."

Leon Walker would have turned 6 years old on Monday.

Contact Us