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Man charged in death of Benton Co. 7-month-old

By Dan Lampariello
By dlampariello@wbbjtv.com

BENTON COUNTY, Tenn. -- The boyfriend of the biological mother of the 7-month-old boy who died Friday in Benton County has been charged in the child's death, according to Benton County Sheriff Tony King.

Westlee Yates is charged with first-degree murder and child abuse, in the death of Joseph Hilliard according to the sheriff's department. The charges are based on interviews and preliminary autopsy results, according to authorities.

For the first time, a family member of the child spoke with WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News. Stacy Myers, the boy's grandmother, says she still can not believe he is gone.

"No mother should have to bury their child," Myers said. "And no grandmother should have to bury their 7-month-old grandchild."

Myers says she has been holding her family close as they try and cope with the loss of her daughter's son.

"She only had him a short 7 months," Myers said. "He was ripped out away from her, in a bad way."

According to the Benton County Sheriff's Office, the child died Friday at Camden General Hospital. His mother and her boyfriend, Yates, rushed him there. Yates now stands charged with his murder and abuse.

Myers remembers her grandson as a happy child.

"He would just kick his legs and laugh," Myers said. "He was just one of the happiest babies."

Deputies said the baby's mother and Yates have a history of domestic violence. Court papers reveal that earlier this month, in an unrelated case, Yates was arrested at home in Holladay for domestic assault after he admitted to head-butting the child's mother when she tried to leave. She suffered a broken nose.

Myers says the family just wants one thing.

"We just want some closure," Myers said. "I mean, with any death, you need closure."

The sheriff says though their investigation continues, he does not anticipate any more charges. The family tells us Joseph Hilliard will be laid to rest on Wednesday.

The family also has set up a fund for the child.
If you would like to make a donation, you can send it to the Oakdale Funeral Home in Camden.
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