Conover man accused of murdering 7-month-old

Tyler Linebarger Picture courtesy of the Newton Police Department
Tyler Linebarger
Picture courtesy of the Newton Police Department


On 1 January 2015 at 5:02 pm, Chekeem Jamar Hickman Jr., infant victim in this case, passed away at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte. Chekeem died as a result of the injuries. The suspect in this case, Tyler Leroy Linebarger has now been charged with Murder. He is being held under no bond at the Catawba County Detention Center. This investigation is continuing.

On 31 December 2014 at 7:20 am, Newton Police responded to 711-E Sandalwood Ct to assist EMS. Upon arrival officers were advised that a 7 month old child was found not breathing non-responsive by his mother’s boyfriend. The child was immediately transported by EMS to Catawba Valley Medical Center for treatment.

During the information gathering process at the scene the boyfriend, Tyler Leroy Linebarger told police that the child was lying on the sofa asleep. Mr. Linebarger stated that he went upstairs to take a shower and when he came back downstairs the child was lying on the floor. Mr. Linebarger stated he picked up the child and placed him back on the sofa and went back upstairs. When Mr. Linebarger returned downstairs he noticed the child blue and not breathing. Mr. Linebarger went to a neighbor’s apartment to call 911. The child’s mother, Amber Leigh Estep, was on scene and stated that she last saw her son at 5:40 am when she left for work and he was fine.

Police investigators were contacted along with DSS who responded to the scene and to the hospital. An examination of the child at Catawba Valley Medical Center revealed recent and past injuries that were sever in nature. The child was transported to Levine’s Children’s Hospital in Charlotte for treatment and was immediately taken for surgery upon arrival at Levine’s. Investigators traveled to Levine’s and spoke with doctors about the extent of the child’s injuries. Doctors discovered the child had severe internal injuries located in various parts of the body that were a direct result of “horrific trauma”. Doctors also confirmed the child had several older injuries that were in various stages of healing. Currently, the child is listed in critical and unstable condition.

Investigators returned to Newton and attempted to locate Mr. Linebarger for an interview. Contact was made with Mr. Linebarger’s mother who stated she would try to locate him and bring him to Newton Police Headquarters to speak with investigators. After a few hours Mr. Linebarger arrived with his mother but refused to speak with investigators without counsel present.

On 1 January 2015 at 12: 26 am, Tyler Leroy Linebarger 23 of 507 Trillium Ct SW, Conover was arrested and charged with (1) count of Felony Child Abuse-Inflicting Serious Injury. He was processed and transported to the Catawba County Detention Center to appear before a magistrate. Mr. Linebarger was held in the Catawba County Detention Center under a $175,000 secured bond. This investigation is continuing with additional charges possible.

Assisting Newton Police – Newton Fire Department, Catawba County EMS, Newton-Conover Rescue Squad and Catawba County Department of Social Services.

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