Warren boy, 3, dies of severe head trauma; mother’s boyfriend charged


Arthur Harper 911 Call

Audio Clip

Arthur Harper 911 Call

By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

WARREN

A 3-year-old boy being watched by his mother’s boyfriend died Wednesday in a Cleveland hospital after suffering “severe head trauma,” Warren police said Wednesday.

Arthur A. Harper, 43, who lived with the boy and his mother, is charged with felony child endangering and was placed in the Trumbull County jail. He will be arraigned on the charge today in Warren Municipal Court.

But Nick Carney, a Warren detective, said Harper could face additional charges after an autopsy is performed on the boy, Russell Cotrall.

The Vindicator obtained a copy of the 911 call Harper made at 6:38 p.m. Saturday. In it, he tells the dispatcher the boy was “up in his bedroom lying down and I heard a thump, and he’s unresponsive to me.”

When the dispatcher asked if the boy was breathing, Harper said, “As far as I know.”

An ambulance took Russell to ValleyCare Trumbull Memorial Hospital, and he was transferred to Rainbow Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. A doctor there called Warren police Sunday and said Russell “is not going to make it, and it looks like it will be a homicide,” according to Warren police.

The boy’s mother was not home at the time of the incident. Harper, who had a Mansfield address in the police report, was alone with the boy, Carney said.

“He was the sweetest little boy. This just breaks my heart,” said Rebecca Fisher, who lives next door to Russell and his mother. The homes are just east of downtown.

Fisher said she barely knew Harper, who had lived there since the summertime, but Russell played with her son, who is about the same age, and she knows the boy’s mother, Judith L. Owens, 43.

“My heart bleeds for his mother,” she said. Owens lost another child about five years ago as a result of a medical complication, Fisher said. She believes Owens didn’t have any other children.

Fisher described Russell as “really, really energetic,” but also “very happy,” adding that Harper and Owens were “very quiet” and “good neighbors.” She said she never saw anything to suggest that the 3-year-old was a victim of abuse.

Investigators, including one from the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office and one from the Cortland Police Department, went to the High Street address Sunday and began an investigation, according to Warren police. Fisher said crime-scene tape went up Sunday while police were there.

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