HAMILTON, OH (FOX19) – - Trial dates were set Monday for three women charged after police say a 5-year-old boy was beaten to death earlier this year.
The women all pleaded not guilty during brief court appearances in Butler County Common Pleas Court.
In what some investigators call the worst case of child abuse they've ever seen, the children's mother, Theresa Hawkins-Stephens, and her friend, Rachael Bostian, are accused of beating her two young sons so badly, the 5-year-old died and his 6-year-old sibling was hospitalized.
The women are charged with murder, five counts of child endangering and two counts of kidnapping. Both are held at the Butler County jail in lieu of $1 million bonds.
They are scheduled to return to court on July 18. Hawkins-Stephens is scheduled to stand trial Sept. 19. Bostian goes on trial Sept. 12.
The murder charge carries a possible sentence of 15 years to life.
Her mother, Ramona Bostian, is charged with child endangering. She is held at the jail on a $500,000 bond and returns to court June 13. Her trial is set for July 5.
The women were taken into custody in April after Middletown officers responded to a report of a possible dead child inside a hotel room at the Parkway Inn.
According to a recording of the 911 call made after the alleged abuse, a woman who identified herself as "Rachael," told dispatchers that she, along with two other women and two children, had been camping in the woods when the five year old child escaped and didn't return for a few days.
When the child returned, Rachael told dispatchers that he'd been badly beat up by other kids in the woods and that he'd stopped breathing.
But when investigators arrived, they came to a much different conclusion and arrested the three women.