Porter County

Indiana boy's death in foster care ruled homicide by coroner

The St. Joseph County Coroner announced the cause of death this week

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The death of a 10-year-old boy living in foster care in Northwest Indiana has been ruled a homicide according to a coroner's report issued this week.

According to a report from the St. Joseph County Coroner's Office, 10-year-old Dakota Stevens' death occurred as a result of "mechanical asphyxia," and is being investigated as a homicide.

Porter County Sheriff's officers and paramedics were dispatched at approximately 2:35 p.m. April 25 to a residence in the 200 block of Falcon Way for a reported medical emergency.

Paramedics immediately transported Stevens to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

A statement from the Indiana Department of Child Services confirmed the agency was investigating.

"Our entire staff is heartbroken by this news. DCS works with stakeholders and partners across the state to investigate the death of a child any time there is suspected abuse or neglect and will take the appropriate action. DCS foster parents must complete intensive training and education to achieve licensure. Licensure is reexamined each year to ensure the foster family continues to meet DCS requirements, including additional training each year to maintain this license. DCS policy also addresses termination of licensure, which includes circumstances where a foster parent or member of the household has been substantiated for abuse or neglect," the statement read in part.

Hayden Hetzel, the boy's former foster father, remembered Dakota's legacy in an emotional Facebook post.

"Thank you for the laughs, the cries, the sleepless nights, the endless memories.. your excitement & passion for anything that you did & put your mind too AMAZED me," Hetzel's Facebook post read in part.

Hetzel said that Dakota had dreams of becoming a firefighter or police officer, loved listening to Katy Perry and had a love for chicken nuggets and pizza.

No immediate update on the investigation was released.

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