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Tests Show Death of Boy, 2, Was Caused by Suffocation

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 2-year-old Mission Viejo boy found dead near his home a day after his parents reported him missing had been suffocated, forensic test results released Thursday show.

Authorities have classified the case as a homicide, answering a key question in the mysterious death of Cecil “C.T.” Turner, who was found at the bottom of a steep slope near his family’s apartment a month ago.

“The death was caused by another human being,” said Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Ron Wilkerson. “That’s extremely significant, because now we’ve established that there is a crime, and we can arrest somebody once we’ve identified a suspect.”

Wilkerson, however, said investigators do not expect to make an arrest in the case any time soon because the probe thus far has turned up few clues.

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According to the boy’s mother, C.T. apparently wandered away from the family’s home the morning of Aug. 12 while she was sleeping and his stepfather was jogging. The mother’s report prompted a massive search with the help of hundreds of volunteers.

The following afternoon, a Camp Pendleton Marine found the child’s nude body partially covered in debris under heavy brush near Oso Creek, several hundred yards from the family’s apartment.

A preliminary autopsy failed to establish the cause of death partly because the boy’s body had no outward signs of trauma, such as bruising, and authorities had to wait for the results of tissue and toxicological tests.

Investigators said Thursday that they suspect the toddler died of asphyxiation because of ruptures in the lungs’ tiny blood vessels, indicating loss of oxygen.

Edith Marie Wu, the boy’s mother, and her husband, Feilong Wu, a world championship diver from China, were questioned after the disappearance, and detectives have combed their apartment for clues. The couple, who had moved to Orange County from Texas a few weeks before the death, have remained cooperative throughout the investigation, Wilkerson said.

The mother did not return repeated phone calls Thursday. She initially told reporters she believed C.T. died from exposure.

The boy’s father, Maxwell Turner, said Thursday that he was hurt but “really wasn’t surprised” to learn that his son was slain.

“I’ve come to the same conclusion myself,” Turner said during a telephone interview from his Indiana home. “I don’t know how anyone can do something like that under any circumstances.”

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Edith Marie Wu agreed in Juvenile Court last month to turn over custody of C.T.'s 5-year-old sister, Bryttnie, to Maxwell Turner, her ex-husband. But a custody battle erupted between Turner and the children’s maternal grandparents, Cecil and Carolyn Morrow, when family members gathered in Texas for the boy’s funeral.

An Orange County judge had granted custody to Maxwell Turner, but a Texas judge later issued another court order prohibiting the father from contacting his daughter while awaiting a custody hearing in Texas.

Bryttnie is now living with her grandparents in Austin. A hearing to determine whether the custody change will stand is scheduled for Oct. 30 in Texas.


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