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COUPLE HELD IN TODDLER'S DEATH; CHILD DIED UNDER MOM'S FRIEND'S CARE.

Byline: Harrison Sheppard and Dominic Berbeo Staff Writers

A 23-year-old North Hills man was arrested on suspicion of murder Thursday after his girlfriend's 2-year-old son died with ``suspicious bruises'' after being in his care, police said.

The mother, who was not home when the boy was taken to the hospital, was arrested on suspicion of felony child endangerment.

Christina Lee Bowman, 23, was working and left the infant with her live-in boyfriend, Christopher Hihn, 23, said Los Angeles police spokesman Officer Jason Lee.

About 12:45 a.m., paramedics were called to the apartment complex in the 8100 block of Langdon Avenue following a report of a child having difficulty breathing, according to a city Fire Department spokesman.

The boy, Ruben Paul Bowman, was unconscious when paramedics arrived and died about 1:20 a.m., according to the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office.

``The baby was blue in the face,'' said Michelle Marshall, a tenant in the same building who saw the paramedics carry the child out.

Investigators noticed ``numerous suspicious bruises about his head and his body,'' said Los Angeles police Detective Ysabel Villegas of Child Abuse Unit.

Detectives questioned the couple and found inconsistencies in their stories, Villegas said.

``The story just doesn't make sense,'' Villegas said. ``The child was with the (boyfriend) and was doing fine, and within an hour, he was dead.''

Hihn was being held on $1 million bail. Lee did not know the amount of Bowman's bail.

Coroner's officials said they will perform an autopsy on the child.

A 1-year-old sibling has been placed with another family for emergency protective custody, according to a spokesman for the county Department of Children and Family Services.

``We will provide a safe and nurturing environment for this child and other children in similar situations until our staff can determine what is the best place for the child for the long term,'' said DCFS spokesman Neil Rincover.

The DCFS child fatality review board and inspector general examine all child death cases, Rincover said.

The couple moved to the Terrace Pointe apartment complex only about two weeks ago, according to other tenants.

An average of one child a week is killed by a parent or caretaker in Los Angeles County, according to Deanne Tilton, executive director of the county's Interagency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect. About two-thirds of those are children under 5.

Last year, the county received 157,062 reports about possible child abuse.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Oct 22, 1999
Words:407
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