Age: 18 mos.
Born: Sept 13, 2010
Died: April 11, 2012
Location: Grand Junction
Suspect in death: Justin Keel, mother's boyfriend
The Mesa County Department of Human Services had opened a case on Owen a month earlier when he suffered a broken leg while in the care of the boyfriend, Justin Keel. Keel told a caseworker that Owen's leg was broken when it got stuck in a high chair. A doctor found it was possible the injury had happened in that manner. The social services' investigation of that injury was ongoing when Owen died. Owen's mother, Amber Reak, had agreed in the interim to not have Keel provide daycare for Owen while she was attending college classes.
Reak, who was in the process of divorcing Owen's father, Jared Reak, was at the apartment she shared with her son and Keel on the morning when the fatal injury happened. Amber Reak told investigators she was in the shower when she heard two"booms." Keel told her one boom was Owen's tippy cup falling from his high chair and the second was Owen falling off a bed.
Two hours later, the couple dropped a sick-appearing Owen off at Amber's father's house for day care. The father called soon after to say that Owen was throwing up and needed to be taken to the hospital.
At Community Hospital, X-rays didn't show any internal injuries, and he was diagnosed with a flu-like virus. After the hospital visit, Reak sent Owen to stay with his paternal grandparents that night in Montrose.
Owen died in his crib there in the middle of the night.
Relatives told investigators after Owen's death that he had more bruising than normal since Keel was dating his mother. A chunk of his hair had"fallen out." His grandmother spoke up when investigators asked whether family members had any idea what had happened to Owen.
"Someone beat the hell out of him," Rose Morris said.
Keel, 26, in his last conversation with Amber Reak, blamed his dog for causing Owen's death. Keel was arrested six weeks after Owen's death on suspicion of child abuse resulting in death.
The case is still pending.
The state Child Fatality Review Team has not completed its assessment of Mesa County's actions in Reak's case.
Read Arrest Affidavit