New documents show detectives had the right suspect in 1971 murd - WDRB 41 Louisville News

New documents show detectives had the right suspect in 1971 murder of an infant

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Newly released evidence sheds light into a murder investigation from the 1970's, illustrating how stories were changed to hide injuries to a toddler.

Homicide detectives in 1971 believed they had their suspect, but they couldn't prove it. For more than 40 years the case was cold.

20-month-old Michael Sanders was murdered in December of 1971. Homicide detectives had their suspect then: the boyfriend of the child's mother, Lawrence Beck.

"There's a big difference in what a police officer feels and what they think. It's what we know and what we can prove," said Detective Brenda Wescott, with LMPD's cold case homicide unit.

Reading through 160 pages of evidence, WDRB learned more about the case. Beck gave police different stories to explain away the injuries to the child, including brain damage and a laceration to his liver.

Doctors in the 70's involved in the case couldn't be certain whether the injuries were given to the child by a beating or from a fall.

A pediatric forensic doctor in Louisville reviewed the case in August and determined the child died as a result of homicide due to violent physical assault. The doctor determined the injuries were not the result of a fall out of bed as Beck once stated to police.

"She was able to take a look at that and give us what we needed to basically disprove statements that were given back in 1971 and to prove that this was indeed a homicide," said Wescott.

We also learned that daycare workers had been concerned about bruises on Michael Sanders on a few different occasions.

The family of Michael Sanders released a statement, saying: "With closure in our near future the family of Michael Sanders is once again reliving the senseless loss of life that was taken from us over four decades ago. Little Michael has never been forgotten and we are very grateful for the dedicated work the detectives did in 1971 and the continuing efforts of those involved now to bring Michael the justice he deserves. "

Beck is charged with the child's murder. Through court documents, we also learned that Beck was accused of sexually abusing one of his family members.

He was found not guilty at trial, but the alleged victim told police he tried to apologize for what he did, and two family members admitted to knowing about the molestation.

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