Morganton woman charged with murder in 3-year-old son’s death

BEL AIR, Md. — A Morganton woman has been charged with murder in the death of her 3-year-old son, police in Maryland said.

Investigators said the two lived in Burke County, North Carolina, but the child’s brutal death happened nearly 500 miles away Sunday in the town of Bel Air, Maryland, which is just outside of Baltimore.

According to the Bel Air Police Department, officers were called just before 5:30 a.m. to North Main Street near Ellendale Street. They were responding to a cardiac arrest call for a child.

Police said an off-duty deputy from the Harford County Sheriff’s Office was driving by and saw a woman standing in the street holding a lifeless infant. The deputy called police for help.

The child, who was identified as 3-year-old Jason Garcia, could not be revived despite lifesaving efforts. He was taken to a local hospital where EMS confirmed his death at 6 a.m.

Investigators gathered evidence, including video evidence, and used it to bring charges against Jason’s mother.

Gloria Elena Hughes, 37, from Morganton, has been charged with first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death. She’s being held in Maryland at the Harford County jail.

Police are still working to determine a motive in the case.

911 call made just days before

Police in Morganton said just days before Jason’s death, they got a call from the family’s apartment along Golf Course Road. The police chief said that call came from Hughes’ boyfriend, accusing her of stealing his phone.

The chief said there was no indication the child was in danger at the time.

Neighbor Keenan Clay showed Channel 9′s Dave Faherty the pictures he took after officers arrived that day. A man had knocked on his door and asked to use his phone to call police.

“I overheard him say to police that him and I guess his wife had an altercation. That she had hit him, locked herself in the bedroom,” Clay said.

Morganton Public Safety confirmed to Faherty that Hughes was at the apartment with her boyfriend Friday evening. But according to charging documents in Maryland, at some point that weekend, the boyfriend alerted police that Hughes left with their 3-year-old son.

Investigators said she and the child traveled nearly 500 miles to Bel Air, where Hughes is accused of killing the toddler.

“Very sad case. Very evil, I’ve heard the term barbaric. It’s just awful,” said Bel Air Police Chief Chuck Moore. “We’re kind of grieving up here, the officers and everybody that’s working on the case. It kind of hits home when you have something like this.”

Police say there is surveillance video that shows Hughes attacking her son.

Clay is in disbelief over what happened. He saw the couple together with the little boy.

“They seemed pretty close. Extremely happy. They seemed really nice,” he said. “Just a normal family that just moved in.”

The chief in Morganton said the incident at the apartments Friday is being reviewed, including looking at any body camera video.

News outlets in Maryland also report that hours before Jason was killed, he was treated and released from an emergency room for ingesting a suppository.

A judge ordered Hughes to be evaluated for her competency.

Anyone with information in the case can reach out to Sgt. Henry Marchesani at hmarchesani@belairmd.org or Cpl. Sam Vivino at svivino@belairmd.org.

(WATCH BELOW: Man charged in death of unborn baby after assaulting girlfriend in Rowan County, deputies say)