The cases of three women charged in the beating death of 5-year-old Alexander Stephens will be heard by a Butler County grand jury.
Theresa Hawkins-Stephens, 26, the boy’s mother; Rachel Bostian, 29; and Ramona Bostian, 56, all waived their right to a preliminary hearing — against the advice of each of their attorneys — and Middletown Municipal Court Judge Mark Wall sent their cases to be heard by a grand jury.
The three women, who are from Licking County, are charged with two counts each of felonious assault and endangering children, both second-degree felonies.
Hawkins-Stephens and Rachel Bostian are also charged with murder. They are accused of tying up Alexander for about 22 hours and, according to police, “severely” beating the boy on his head and body.
Police also said Alexander’s brother, 6-year-old Damyan, was also injured in the attacks but his injuries were not life-threatening.
The Stephens boys were sleeping in a tent near the Great Miami River with their mother and two of her friends, who told police they came to the area looking for work.
Bond remains at $1 million each for Hawkins-Stephens and Rachel Bostian and $500,000 for Ramona Bostian.
Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said he wanted the preliminary hearing, where a prosecutor offers testimony from witnesses and may also introduce evidence, because he “wanted the public to see as soon as possible the level of abuse.”
“This is such an unusually horrific case of deprivation with respect to child abuse that I really wanted it to go forward at a preliminary hearing,” he said.
While he acknowledges the women have a presumption of innocence before any trial, Gmoser said “the facts of the case of what happened to this young boy and his brother are out there” in the police report.
The boys were wrapped in sheets, then allegedly beaten by the women after one of them took food, police said.
Waiving a preliminary hearing has its purposes, but local attorney Charlie Rittgers, who’s not involved with this case, said an attorney would “almost always” want to have that hearing occur.
“It’s an opportunity to hear some of the accusations in some of the early stages of the case,” he said. “That hearing is transcribed and that can serve almost like a deposition in a civil case. It’s etched in stone.”
Attorneys would recommend to waive a preliminary hearing as it relates to bond, he said.
“The only reason to waive is because of bond,” Rittgers said. “That would ensure the bond remains the same, or there would be a reduction of bond if there’s a waiver.”
The three women are expected to be transferred Saturday to the Butler County Jail.
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