HUNTINGTON COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) — A man is facing a Level 1 felony charge after police found an 8-year-old under his care dead in a bedroom locked from the outside, according to court documents.
On Nov. 22, police arrived at a house in south Huntington and were informed by the victim’s mother that her child, an 8-year-old boy, had been found with a zip tie around his neck, according to court documents.
Medical personnel pronounced the child deceased at the scene.
An autopsy conducted Nov. 23 determined the cause of death to be asphyxia due to the zip tie around the victim’s neck.
However, court documents say the manner of death could not be determined at the time because the autopsy could not rule out homicide in light of the circumstances surrounding the victim’s death.
At the scene, police questioned 32-year-old Matthew Dirig, the boyfriend of the victim’s mother, who said he had brought the victim home after the victim had been difficult, locked him in his room and started playing video games.
Dirig told police he locked the child in his room because that was the child’s “safe space,” according to court documents.
The victim’s mother also told police that the child’s room was considered a “safe space” and that she would usually “set a timer for five minutes” and then see if her child had calmed down, according to court documents.
In the court documents, the mother stated she was not home the night of the incident and that she was not sure if Dirig ever checked on the child.
Dirig admitted to police he received a text from the victim’s mother at 6:38 p.m. — around 45 minutes before the mother came home and discovered the victim — asking Dirig how the victim was doing.
Dirig never responded to the text, explaining to police he was “busy playing his game,” according to court documents.
Dirig also told police he never checked on the victim because he “got sidetracked.”
Police investigated Ring doorbell camera footage from the home and estimated the victim had been locked in the room for nearly two hours based on when Dirig and the victim arrived home and when the mother found her child, according to court documents.
In an interview with police, Dirig described the victim as “aggressive” when he brought the victim home, but police believe the victim “did not appear aggressive whatsoever” in the doorbell camera footage.
During a search of the residence, a detective also found a black coat belonging to Dirig that had “fresh scratch marks” that “appeared consistent with defensive scratching with fingernails,” according to court documents.
Authorities charged Dirig with neglect of a dependent resulting in death, a Level 1 felony in Indiana.
A Level 1 felony under most circumstances carries a sentence of 20 to 40 years.
Dirig had been held under a $15,000 cash bond, but was later released after posting bond.