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Federal Way: 7-month-old child found dead in fire pit

Police continue to investigate the death of a 7-month-old child found dead in a fire pit June 22 in the 2600 block of Southwest 333rd Place in Federal Way.

On Tuesday, Federal Way police arrested the father of the victim. The Mirror is not publishing the father's name because charges have not been filed.

The King County Medical Examiner released results of an autopsy. The examiner discovered soot from the fire in child's esophagus, meaning the child was alive when he entered the fire, according to a report.

There was a bail hearing June 25 for the father, who was booked into King County Jail. The court set bail at $1 million. The father is being held on investigation of manslaughter, police said. The deadline for filing charges is Friday, June 27.

An investigation has been launched and police are gathering details. The father, 37, told authorities he and his infant son fell asleep on a bench near the fire pit in the family's backyard Saturday. The father claimed he later awoke to find his son missing, police spokeswoman Cathy Schrock said. South King Fire and Rescue as well as police were called to help locate the child.

When rescuers arrived on scene shortly after 12 a.m., they found the father holding his deceased son, Schrock said. The fire pit did not have a safety structure surrounding it and was described by Schrock as a "hole in the ground."

It remains unclear to investigators how the infant moved from the bench to the fire pit. Schrock was also unsure whether the infant had been seated in a carrying device or directly on the bench.

Infants ages 7 months to 9 months are generally able to move about on their own in a limited manner. They may be beginning to scoot, rock or crawl, and some can sit or pull themselves to a standing position on their own, according to a June 29, 2007, Mayo Clinic article titled "Infant development: What happens from 7 to 9 months?"

The infant's mother was home at the time of the incident, Schrock said. Statements from both parents and witnesses were taken before all were released from police custody. A search warrant was issued to investigate the home and a blood sample was taken from the father, she said.

The Department of Social and Health Services has no record of reported abuse or neglect to the 7-month-old or the infant's 4-year-old sibling, communications director Thomas Shapley said. The agency is working with the family on a family safety plan, he said.

"We will come into a case like this and try to develop a family safety plan of one sort or another," Shapley said. "That could cover a broad range of things."

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