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Crime & Courts

Man charged with assaulting 4-year-old Michigan boy found dead on Indian Reservation

  • Carnel Chamberlain.jpg

    The family of 4-year-old Carnel Chamberlain, above, said his body was found Thursday under a wood porch or deck at the home where he lived with his mother and her boyfriend. (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children)

  • boy found under porch.jpg

    A Michigan State Police dog handler and his dog search the property at 7340 East Tomah Road in Mount Pleasant, Mich. on Thursday, June 28 2012, where the body of Carnel Chamberlain was reportedly found sometime earlier in the day. Chamberlain, 4 was reported missing on Thursday, June 21 from the home and a massive search and rescue effort was in place in the area in the week that followed. (AP Photo/The Morning Sun, Lisa Yanick-Jonaitis)

A 20-year-old man has been charged with assaulting his girlfriend's 4-year-old son whose family says was found dead under a porch at the mid-Michigan Indian reservation where they live.

Anthony Bennett is charged in a federal criminal complaint Friday in Bay City.

Hundreds of people gathered Thursday night at a vigil for Carnel Chamberlain near Mount Pleasant at the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe's reservation, where he had lived with his mother and Bennett. He was reported missing June 21 while in the care of Bennett, while his mother was at work.

For days, investigators searched woods, ponds and the tribe's wastewater treatment areas to no avail. Family spokesman Kevin Chamberlain said Carnel's body was discovered on Thursday.

Bennett is not charged in Carnel's death.

Federal authorities were silent on the case early Friday, and the tribe was expected to hold a news conference in the afternoon at the Isabella Indian Reservation.

On Friday morning, a tribal police car sat outside the family's one-story home, less than a mile from tribal police headquarters and the offices of the Saginaw Chippewa tribe. Just beyond the offices is the tribe's gleaming Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort, which attracts gamblers from around the state.

Kevin Chamberlain, the tribe's former chief who is a cousin of Carnel's mother, Jaimee Chamberlain, said he had no details about what led investigators back to the house after many days of searching woods, ponds and the tribe's wastewater treatment areas.

The body "had to be in a grave. We had looked underneath before and didn't see anything," he said.

Carnel disappeared June 21 while in the care of Bennett. The Morning Sun newspaper reported that Bennett was considered a person of interest by police after the boy disappeared. 

Tribal police had been leading the investigation. On Thursday, they referred calls to the FBI, which declined to comment Thursday and again on Friday morning. Any charges in the case would be handled by federal authorities, who have jurisdiction over major crimes on Indian reservations.

A message seeking information on the case was sent early Friday to a spokeswoman for a U.S. attorney's office in Michigan.

The vigil was attended by Jaimee Chamberlain, relatives and others. People sang, played drums and spoke urging love and healing in the face of tragedy.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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