North Carolina professor facing first degree murder charges after death of six-month-old adopted child

A North Carolina man has been charged with first degree murder after the death of his 6-week old adopted baby boy, according to authorities.

Van Erick Custodio, 42, a computer science professor at Belmont Abbey College, was arrested on Monday in relation to the alleged abuse of his adopted infant son, who at the time of the arrest was being treated after cardiac arrest on April 1.

The infant passed away on Wednesday, at which time Custodio’s charges were elevated from felony child abuse to first degree murder. 

Gastonia police responded to a 911 call regarding an infant in cardiac arrest on April 1, and the infant was transported to a local hospital where he was treated for life-threatening injuries. An investigation was opened and detectives determined the injuries and cardiac arrest were consistent with abuse. The baby suffered a fractured skull and broken rib, among other injuries.

Custodio was arrested in York County on April 11, and was held on $500,000 bond. On April 14, after the infant, Lucas Birchin, succumbed to his injuries, Gastonia police announced Custodio’s charges had been upgraded.

According to authorities, Custodio was in the process of adopting the child at the time of his hospitalization and death. The college where Custodio teaches has issued a statement to NBC regarding the case, saying Custodio has been suspended following his arrest, and that at the time of the incident Custodio had been on requested family leave. 

The school said Custodio “has been placed on administrative leave, and another faculty member will cover this class for the remainder of the semester.,” The college also said, “thoughts and prayers are with all of those impacted by this terrible event.”

Records show Custodio does not have an attorney, but he is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday. 




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Laura is a freelance writer out of Maryland and a mom of three. Her background is in political science and international relations, and she has been doing political writing and editing for 17 years. Laura has also written parenting pieces for the Today Show and is currently working on writing a collection of remarkable true stories about normal people. She writes for FBA because unbiased news is vital to unity, and readers deserve the facts free of opinion.

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