Eric Ross and Angel Branch
Photo: DeKalb jail
Photo: DeKalb jail

DeKalb pair accused of killing disabled toddler with ‘unknown object’

When Amir Ross was born July 10, 2014, doctors didn’t think he’d live a year because of myriad developmental issues, his great aunt recalls.

Rochelle Evans, who said the boy always needed a feeding tube and couldn’t keep food down, said it was by the “grace of God” he lived to May 2016. But DeKalb County authorities believe it wasn’t the child’s illnesses that led to his death.

Parents Eric Ross and Evans’ niece, Angel Branch, arrived in the county jail in recent days after a grand jury handed down an indictment accusing them of murder for allegedly beating him to death. The document, filed June 5, says the mother and father, both now 21, caused abrasions on his face, feet, back and groin with an “unknown object.”

Evans said Tuesday the alleged violence would be totally out of character for both parents.

“On my mother,” Evans told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “she did not kill her baby and neither did Eric.”

Evans’ mother, Branch’s grandmother, died unexpectedly recently and Branch was in Chicago, Illinois helping to figure out how to pay for the funeral when U.S. Marshals showed up to arrest her. Evans said the grandmother had helped Branch pray through losing Amir and the fact that the Division of Family Children Services took Branch’s other son, who is now about 4, into foster care after the toddler died.

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Branch and Ross moved to the Covington Highway area outside Decatur about a year before Amir died, according to Evans. The aunt said the couple was trying to escape gang culture in Chicago.

After the child’s death, the parents were initially arrested on June 3, 2016, each charged with a single count of child cruelty. The indictment alleges both committed eight counts of child cruelty and one count of felony murder, all said to have taken place from May 9 to 31.

Jail records show the couple, who’d been released on bond a few weeks after their initial arrests, both arrived back in the DeKalb jail last week.

They now have no bond.

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Authorities in DeKalb County are concerned there may be more victims after at least two women were assaulted by a paraplegic in his home.