North Carolina Professor Charged With Murder of Adopted Infant Son

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Van Erick Custodio was charged with first-degree murder after his adopted 6-week-old son died from injuries sustained during alleged child abuse.

A North Carolina college professor was charged with the murder of his 6-week-old adopted son, according to WBTV.

Authorities were called to a home on April 1 due to a report of an infant in cardiac arrest, leading to Van Erick Custodio, 42, initially being charged with one count of felony child abuse. 

The infant's death occurred only a few weeks after his placement with Custodio and his wife.

The couple had previously been foster parents and had adopted one child, and had raised money to adopt a second child, creating a GoFundMe that raised $10,000 and garnering help from Both Hands Foundation — a nonprofit that help's family's adoption fundraising efforts. 

In a video Custodio created to aid in raising the funds, he said, “We’re not people to go out and ask for this, so it’s more trying to allow God to do his work and some friends of us reached out to us and said I’m shocked at how much adoptions cost,

"Why does it cost so much? So they decided to one donate money to us which we were very humbled and couldn’t believe people would want to do that when there are so many other causes out there.”

In a statement to People, the nonprofit said, "Our team is incredibly devastated about this news. We find these actions atrocious and fully denounce any violence towards children."

Custodio stated on the platforms that he and his wife were unable to have children due to medical reasons, according to WBTV.

The infant, Lucas Birchim, was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries sustained from physical abuse. 

According to WSOC-TV, the infant suffered, "a skull fracture, broken rib, and multiple fractures in each leg," 

According to authorities, friends told the police during the investigation that Custodio allegedly confessed that he threw the newborn on the couch and "squeezed the child, hearing a pop in the rib area," and "he jerked the legs of the child back and felt a pop in the child's legs" while changing the baby's diaper, the station reported.

The infant died on April 13 from his injuries, and Custodio was charged with first-degree murder, according to authorities.

A statement from Belmont Abbey College to WBTV said that Custodio was not presently working for them.

"He recently took family leave and was not actively working for the college. Effective 4/13/2022, he was suspended from teaching at Belmont Abbey," the statement read.

"Our prayers and hearts are with those impacted during this time."

According to the outlet, UNC Charlotte has also placed Custodio on administrative leave.

"UNC Charlotte hired Van Erick Custodio on a limited, temporary contract to teach one class this semester in an adjunct capacity," the university said in a statement.

"He has been placed on administrative leave, and another faculty member will cover this class for the remainder of the semester."

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