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Boy, 4, from Chicago found dead in Missouri; caretaker charged with neglect

This undated photo provided by the Jefferson City (Mo.) Police Department shows Darnell Gray. | Jefferson City Police Department via AP

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A man whose ex-girlfriend is charged in the killing of his 4-year-old son in Missouri says he believed she would take care of his child while he visited his ailing mother in Chicago.

Kijuanis Gray told WLS-TV in Chicago that he “trusted” 26-year-old Quatavia Givens to look after his son, Darnell Gray, at his home in Jefferson City, and that he “wasn’t expecting her to do this.”

Givens was charged Wednesday with neglect or abuse of a child resulting in death. No attorney who can speak on her behalf is listed in online court records.

Givens reported Darnell missing on Oct. 25. Authorities went door-to-door, drained a retention pond and used a helicopter in the search for the boy. His body was found Tuesday in a wooded area in Jefferson City, and an autopsy determined he had suffered blunt and sharp force trauma, charging documents say.

Quatavia Givens | Cole County Sheriff’s Office via AP

“That’s my only child that I had, my only child,” said Gray, who described his son as smiley and “goofy.” ”He loved to run around with me. He loved to play basketball.”

Gray told the TV station he moved from Chicago to Missouri a few years ago because he “wanted a better life,” and brought his son to Missouri six months ago. Gray said he’s no longer with Darnell’s mother, who still lives in Chicago.

Police have declined to identify Darnell’s parents or specify the relationship between Givens and Darnell’s father. A police spokesman didn’t immediately respond to phone and email messages early Thursday.

Charging documents said Givens initially told officers that Darnell either was abducted or ran away during the night.

She later told police that she hurt the child, saying “I may have hit him wrong,” the statement said. It also said Givens, who is jailed without bond, had told investigators she planned to travel to Florida “to get out of the area.”