- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A West Virginia man charged in the death of a 2-year-old boy he was babysitting had put the body in a freezer and told authorities the child drowned, according to a criminal complaint.

Jarrel R. Stricklen, 23, of South Charleston was arraigned Monday on a first-degree murder charge in Kanawha County Circuit Court.

Stricklen told police he had left the child unattended in a bathtub for several minutes and the child drowned by accident. But an autopsy found the death was caused by physical assault and suffocation. According to the complaint, police found bruising on the child’s body and head.

Media outlets report Stricklen told police he had put the child’s body inside his freezer for hours, then removed the body and placed it on a couch before calling dispatchers.

The complaint said the toddler died Friday night, but Stricklen did not notify authorities until 8 p.m. Saturday. Officers and firefighters became suspicious about Stricklen’s story due to the “abnormally cold temperature” of the child’s body.

“The child wasn’t actually wet,” said South Charleston police Detective Joel Gray. “The child did have patches of ice on his skin.”

Stricklen was a friend of the boy’s mother, and the child and his twin brother had stayed with Stricklen before.

Stricklen told police the child had bruises when he picked up the boy, but the child’s mother and other witnesses denied that during police interviews.

Stricklen was held without bond Tuesday at the South Central Regional Jail pending a June 9 preliminary hearing. Jail records didn’t indicate whether Stricklen has an attorney.

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