Sierra Vista Toddler’s Death By Blunt Force Injury Remains Under Investigation

Kenny Gamble II [Photo courtesy of Gamble family]

A medical examiner has determined the June 6 death of a two-year-old Sierra Vista boy was caused by blunt trauma to the head which resulted in a lack of oxygen or blood flow to the brain. But whether it was an accident or homicide is not yet known, Arizona Daily Independent has learned.

The Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner lists Kenny Gamble II’s official cause of death as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy or HIE. Dr. Bruce Parks, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, found several contusions across the youngster’s scalp, including one that measured roughly 2.3 inches by 2 inches on the back of the head.

Parks’ autopsy report also noted fluid build-up and swelling around the toddler’s brain, as well as retinal and optic hemorrhaging. Despite the injuries, the boy’s skull was not fractured, Parks noted.

The investigation into the youngster’s death is being led by Det. Paul Youman of the Sierra Vista Police Department. Youman was assigned the case June 3 when officers responded to a local home for a report of an unconscious child.

At the time, the boy’s mother Alysha Hop had physical custody but was not at home. Hop’s boyfriend Daniel J. Foster is the one who called police, reporting that he found the youngster unconscious.

Foster told police he performed CPR until medical responders arrived. The boy was declared brain dead June 6 at Banner UMC in Tucson. Several of his organs were then procured for transplant, including his heart, lungs, kidney, and liver.

Read more by Terri Jo Neff >>

While awaiting Dr. Parks’ findings, Youman tracked the child’s activities and interviewed several adults who had seen the boy in the days preceding his death. The detective found that the boy had recently spent time with his biological father, Kenny Gamble Jr., and other family members. However, Youman said Wednesday there was no evidence that the boy suffered any injuries at that time.

Youman also said he is reaching out to the adults who had contact with the toddler in early June. He is hopeful they will agree to be re-interviewed now that the autopsy report has been completed. That may be somewhat difficult as Foster appears to have moved out of state.

During the wait for the autopsy report, the question of how to proceed with funeral arrangements for the boy caused much dissention among his family. Kenny Gamble Jr. created a GoFundMe account to assist with medical expenses and funeral arrangements, resulting in more than $17,000 in donations.

The father also filed an emergency petition with the judge assigned to the family’s child custody case in hopes of having “some kind of say in funeral planning.” However, Judge David Thorn denied the petition and on July 7 gave Hop full authority to make final arrangements.

That included who could and could not attend any services.

“I am deeply saddened by the situation not being able to be a part of my own son’s funeral,” the father posted to Facebook at the time. “I am very upset, heartbroken, disappointed, and devastated.”

In addition, Gamble Jr. received notification from GoFundMe that it refunded the money donated to help with the costs of the boy’s medical care and funeral expenses.

“I could never express the true love and the true appreciation for all those people that have supported and or tried to support by donating and giving their condolences,” the father posted on Facebook. “This is not the way I want any of this to go. I wanted my son to have a beautiful ceremony with all the people that truly loved and cared about him.”

The father declined to comment about the investigation into his son’s death, noting he doesn’t want to say anything that could hinder Youman’s efforts. Instead, he is striving to think about happier thoughts.

“I truly know that my beautiful baby boy knows how much I and all of his family truly loves and adores him,” he said. “There is not one doubt in my mind that he is with God running around eating pancakes and having the time of his life.”