Mother, Boyfriend Charged in Death of Idaho Boy Found in Canal

The mother of an 8-year-old boy found dead in an Idaho canal and her live-in boyfriend have been indicted on first-degree murder charges by an Ada County grand jury.

Thirty-year-old Melissa Jenkins and her boyfriend, 36-year-old Daniel Ehrlick Jr., were arrested Tuesday in the death of Jenkins' son, Robert Manwill. The two also face charges on accusations that they failed to report the boy's death.

Robert was missing for more than a week before his body was found floating in the canal Aug. 3. No cause of death has been released, but police said evidence showed the death was not accidental.

The boy's disappearance struck a chord in southwestern Idaho, and thousands of residents turned out to search for him. Deputy Chief Jim Kerns, of the Boise Police Department, said during a news conference televised Tuesday on KTVB-TV that officers from his agency, the FBI and other law enforcement units logged more than 9,000 hours trying to uncover what happened to the youngster after he left his mother's apartment in Boise on July 24.

"Probably no other case in Boise history has touched so many people," Kerns told reporters. "The turnout of volunteers to search for Robert was unprecedented in this community. The law enforcement effort to find Robert was equally massive and unprecedented."

Jenkins is being held in the Ada County Jail on $2 million bond, while Ehrlick is being held there without bond.

They are due to be formally charged Wednesday morning in 4th District Court. Attempts to reach Jenkins and Ehrlick at the jail were unsuccessful, and it was unknown if either had an attorney.

Robert Manwill's father, Charles Manwill of New Plymouth, Idaho, had custody of the boy since 2008. Jenkins had visitation rights, and the boy was visiting her the night he disappeared.

Jenkins is on probation for fracturing the skull of Robert Manwill's infant half brother, who was removed from her custody by the state in late 2008.

Court records say Jenkins "did willfully inflict" the injury to her other son "by striking the child's head on a surface, causing a fracture to the child's skull," on Oct. 19, 2008. She was sentenced to 29 days of work release and put on probation for two years.

Ehrlick served time in an Idaho prison after being convicted of burglary and grand theft in the 1990s and was arrested for several probation violations, according to Idaho court records. He has also been convicted of battery and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Jenkins has a third child, a 2 1/2-year-old daughter, fathered by a third man, who has custody of her. Jenkins has visitation rights. Ehrlick is banned by the courts from being alone with the girl, but documents don't say why.

This is Charles Manwill's second child to die violently. His former wife, Silke Fatma Manwill, stabbed their 4-year-old son, Michael, in the chest in 1993, killing him. She was sentenced to federal prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter, and was released in 2002.

Efforts to reach Jenkins' family and Charles Manwill on Tuesday evening were unsuccessful.

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