3-year-old found dead covered in bruises was at center of custody fight

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Josh Einiger reports from Brownsville. (family handout)

A 3-year-old boy's death is being investigated in Brooklyn. His body was found badly bruised and it was too late for paramedics to try to save him.

"Please! Tell me it's not him," said a family member.

On darkened block in Brownsville Wednesday night, disbelief became despair.

The family of 3-year-old Ethan Ali is overwhelmed with misery.

"He was so vibrant," a family member said.

At around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, someone called 911 and reported Ethan was unconscious. Sources say when police arrived they found him battered and bruised and not breathing.

Paramedics pronounced him dead.

Family members say the 3-year-old was in the custody of his mother. His father, Tony Ali, had been trying to get him back.

"His only child and he wanted custody of him and they wouldn't give it to him, they were to go back to court the 24th of March to get custody," a family member said.

Police will say little about the investigation. Sources tell Eyewitness News detectives are questioning the boy's aunt, who'd been watching him when the 911 call came in.

"He's a happy kid, he's always playing, running around, as a 4-year-old (police reported the boy's age as 3 late Wednesday night) do," said Elsie Witty, a neighbor.

An apparent murder victim, sources say, so small a worker from the Medical Examiner's Office covered Ethan's body in a sheet, picked him up in his arms and carried him out of his house for the last time.

Distraught family members are searching for answers.

"I leave judgment to God, I'm not God," a family member said.

ACS released a statement saying: "We are extremely saddened and concerned about reports of a four-year-old found dead in Brooklyn today. We are working closely with the NYPD on an investigation around the circumstances surrounding this tragic death."

Related Topics:
child deathchild abuseu.s. & worldNew York
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