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Apex child in coma, parents investigated


APEX (WTVD) -- Was it an accident or child abuse? That's the question Apex police are trying to answer after a 3-year-old was rushed to the hospital.

The child is still in serious condition after emergency brain surgery and remains in a coma.

Now, ABC11 has learned the parents are under investigation. That came as a shock to neighbors.

"We're really surprised to hear all of this about them. It's just ... very shocking," offered neighbor Holly Ross.

Two weeks ago Philip and Michele Stein called paramedics - saying their son fell down a flight of stairs. Police say they have reason to suspect they may have abused the young boy - an orphan they adopted from China.

Neighbors say the child has learning disabilities and are defending the parents.

"I don't believe it. I've never heard her raise her voice. I've never seen her smack a child. I just can't believe it," said neighbor Wanda Holbert.

Wednesday, Apex police served a search warrant on the couple's home - seizing family photos and a phone bill.

In an affidavit, one detective describes a history of abuse and neglect reports related to the child. He also says the Steins have been uncooperative - refusing to speak to investigators on the advice of a lawyer.

Still, in their tight knit community, neighbors believe there's another explanation.

"I've raised five kids and trust me - I've had things happen. I had a child who fell off a cliff and I was right there. And there's just so little you can do sometimes to prevent things," offered neighbor Sally Stoops.

Neighbors we spoke with are confident the Steins' name will eventually be cleared - but even then they worry about what it might mean for parents going forward.

"An accident prone child or several accidents can make someone paranoid you're gonna get in trouble even if it was just an accident - because people are very quick to condemn," said Ross.

It's important to note that no charges have been filed in this case. Apex police refused to comment, and we couldn't reach the boy's parents.

2010 Apr 3