Man convicted in 2014 death of infant he was supposed to be caring for

CATAWBA COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - A Catawba County man was convicted and sentenced Tuesday in the 2014 death of an infant he was supposed to be caring for.

Tyler Leroy Eugene Linebarger, 26, of Conover, was convicted of second-degree murder and two counts of felony child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury in the death of 7-month-old Chekeem Jamar Hickman Jr.

Linebarger was caring for the infant while the child's mother, Amber Estep, was at work on Dec. 31, 2014. Investigation and medical examinations showed that he "punched or struck the child with such force" that it led to internal bleeding and then cardiac arrest.

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Linebarger- then 23 - told police the baby was sleeping on the sofa and when he came downstairs, the child was lying on the floor. He said he then put Chekeem back on the sofa, went back upstairs, and when he came downstairs the child was blue and not breathing.

According to police, Linebarger said he went to a neighbor's apartment to call 911.

The child was taken to Catawba Valley Medical Center and then to Levine's Children's Hospital in Charlotte for immediate surgery. Doctors said the child had severe internal injuries in various parts of his body that were a result of "horrific trauma."

According to the warrant, the child had multiple internal injuries, multiple bruises, and broken ribs. The doctors said several of the injuries were old and in the stage of healing.

"This is simply a tragedy for everyone involved," Judge Poovey said on Tuesday. "There is nothing I can say that will right this wrong."

"There was literally no one else who could be responsible," said Assistant District Attorney Alison Martin. "Baby Jamar didn't deserve this."

Linebarger was sentenced to serve 30 to 38 years at the North Carolina Division of Adult Corrections.

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