In connection with the death of 5-year-old Ethan Belcher, Valerie Hamilton and her boyfriend Shane Shelton are accused of numerous crimes, including mur*der.
The tragic passing of Belcher has wide-ranging effects. While his family is undoubtedly devastated, in Lansing, a bill that would make Michigan’s Child Protective Services subject to the public scrutiny it currently avoids is being driven by his name.
On the Senate floor on Wednesday (Feb. 1) in the late afternoon, state senator Jim Runestad made it clear.
Runestad declared, “What we are witnessing is nothing short of a disaster.”
Just hours earlier, as she stood before a probable cause hearing in court on Wednesday morning, Hamilton wiped tears from her eyes.
Shelton did not show up, but Hamilton did.
Last week, police discovered Belcher’s lifeless body inside a dilapidated Detroit home. The charges against his mother and stepfather include felony torture, mu*rder, and child abuse.
According to Runestad, “Channel 4 news reporters tried to use the freedom of information act to look into CPS’s interactions with the family but were denied.”
Runestad referenced Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s last week statement to Local 4 regarding the state’s exemption of CPS from freedom of information requests.
You’re educating me right now, and I believe there may be a chance for us to look closely at it and determine what else we can do, said Whitmer.
Runestad introduced a bill to accomplish this on the Senate floor on Wednesday.
When so many innocent lives are at risk, this agency cannot be allowed to operate in complete secrecy, according to Runestad.
Runestad says he’s looking for bipartisan support for a bill that can stop more tragedies like the 5-year-old’s death. Belcher’s family wants to hold the funeral they cannot afford this week.
Colleagues, we need to act more, and we need to act more immediately, Runestad said.
The aunts of Runestad and Belcher, Ashley Belcher and Candace Rush, will hold a news conference on Thursday morning in Lansing to discuss Ethan’s passing and to try to rally support for a bill that would increase public oversight of child protective services.
On February 21, Hamilton and Shelton will appear in court for what is expected to be a protracted preliminary examination.
The family has a GoFundMe page, and so far, they have collected about half of the funds they require to bury the 5-year-old.