Monroe mom’s boyfriend charged with killing her son

A Monroe County woman’s boyfriend said he lost his temper and hit her 3-year-old son last week, causing injuries that authorities say killed the boy.

Conner Lenning died of trauma to his midsection last Friday at Monroe County Hospital.

The boy, who lived with his mother, Jessica Merritt, north of Juliette, had been in the care of Merritt’s boyfriend, Lawrence Oliver Jackson, during the day Friday at Jackson’s brother’s house in Gray, officials said.

Merritt, 22, was at work at the Red Lobster in Macon when, according to investigators, her boyfriend called her to tell her Conner had vomited but that he was all right.

Monroe County sheriff’s investigator Allen Henderson said Jackson, 20, admitted to striking the child.

“Sometime around lunchtime Conner was getting into things, like 3-year-olds do, and got into some chemicals or something,” Henderson said.

He said that “may or may not be the exact reason” why Jackson struck the boy.

“(Jackson) said he lost it, lost control, and that’s when he hit or caused the injuries to Conner,” the investigator said.

Jackson was arrested Wednesday in Monroe County.

Because the boy’s injuries were allegedly inflicted in Gray, he was turned over Thursday to Jones County deputies and jailed there on murder and cruelty-to-children charges.

Henderson said that when Merritt picked up her son Friday afternoon, the boy was clenching his stomach, complaining of severe pain and seemed drowsy.

“It was scaring her,” Henderson said.

Conner was taken to the hospital in Forsyth shortly before 7 p.m. and was pronounced dead soon after, the investigator said.

“The whole thing is tragic,” he said.

To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.