Thirty-year- old Donald Johnson was charged Friday night after the medical examiner ruled his 14-month-old son, Dontrell Johnson, died from strangulation.
Dontrell Johnson was last seen alive by his paternal grandmother Wednesday. The suspect had taken the boy to visit her.
"He called my phone and said that, 'It's too late. I don't know what she['s] looking for me for. It's too late. It's all over with now,'" said Rolean Prince, aunt. "And I'm like, what do you mean by that? He didn't say."
Dontrell was found two miles east of Jackson Harbor. A boater spotted what he said looked like a doll in the water. Paramedics hoped the cold waters had suspended the toddler's vitals enough, but it was too late.
Mother Regina Quarles, 25, later identified the body as that of her son.
"The mother's in bad shape. You know, she's dealing with it, you know, as best she could, but it's coming and going. It's like she's still in shock," said Gwendolyn Baxter, family friend.
Family members say the baby's father had taken him from Dontrell's mother's home Monday. He allegedly refused to return the boy and call Quarles threatening to harm the child unless they resume their relationship. Police arrested Johnson that night following those phone calls.
"A hundred-plus, back-to-back , saying the same thing, 'You don't understand, he['s] gone. You don't understand, it's your fault,'" said Quarles.
Johnson has not officially been charged in connection with the boy's death.