Preliminary findings from the autopsy on a toddler in foster care who suffered a brain injury and died Tuesday are inconclusive, Lincoln Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister said Wednesday.

No arrests have been made in the investigation into the death of the 14-month-old boy, and police would not identify him.

Bliemeister said more medical testing will be done to determine the cause of the death. The baby boy also suffered internal bleeding, he said.

"I can't say if it is or is not a criminal act," Bliemeister said Wednesday morning. "I can say a 14-month-old died, and that is tragic."

Lincoln Fire and Rescue was called to a home near Southwest 40 and A streets just before 11 p.m. on Dec. 22 on a report a baby was in cardiac distress and not breathing, according to police and dispatch records.

A caregiver performed CPR before medics arrived and took the baby to a local hospital, Lincoln Police Officer Katie Flood said.

Doctors determined he had retinal bleeding and brain swelling, and he was taken to a hospital in Omaha, police said.

A police report indicates investigators are looking into possible physical abuse.

Bliemeister said investigators have been working with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. He has also been in contact with Gov. Pete Ricketts' office because the child was in the state's care. 

The residents of the home in southwest Lincoln have been licensed foster care providers since January 2014 and have had no disciplinary reports filed against them, HHS spokesman Russ Reno said. He said HHS is monitoring the police investigation.

The boy's 2-year-old sister, who also lived in the foster home, was examined and no indication of child abuse was found, police said. Because of the ongoing investigation, HHS removed the girl from the home, Bliemeister said.

The foster parents have cared for nine state wards since getting their license, Reno said. There has been no indication of abuse in the home, Bliemeister said.

"This is a very tragic situation, and our hearts go out to the family," said Reno. "DHHS and our provider responsible for foster parent recruitment will continue to cooperate with law enforcement’s investigation."

The boy and his sister were among 3,516 state wards placed outside of their homes in Nebraska as of Dec. 5, according to HHS.

Reno couldn't say Wednesday how many children have died in Nebraska foster homes.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7395 or nmanna@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNicholeManna.


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