Stepfather faces homicide charge in death of 6-year-old boy with autism who 'fell down the stairs'

Carl Bookout

WAUKESHA -- A boy with autism, who was nonverbal, was declared brain dead two days after his 6th birthday, and prosecutors say his stepfather was responsible for causing injuries so severe, doctors did not expect the boy to survive. According to prosecutors, the stepfather blamed the injuries on a fall down the stairs at their Waukesha apartment complex near Cambridge Avenue and Minaka Drive in Waukesha on July 17. Police said the boy sustained injuries so severe he was "likely to die."

Carl Bookout, 42, faces three charges in separate cases filed Tuesday, July 30:

    Carl Bookout

    According to a criminal complaint, police learned the child was taken to Waukesha Memorial Hospital by his mother and stepfather with a severe skull fracture and brain bleeding, among other injuries. The parents reported he fell down the stairs, and he "had been unconscious for three hours before they brought him to the hospital." Bookout said the fall happened while the mother was at the store on July 17 -- the day before the boy's birthday.

    Doctors determined "it would be extremely unlikely that any child would sustain this massive injury from a short fall." Doctors advised the boy "would die from his injuries."

    The child was transferred to Children's Hospital due to the severity of the injuries.

    In addition to the head injuries, the complaint said he suffered a broken right arm and bruising on multiple areas of his body. The complaint said the head injuries were so severe, his brain was forced to one side of his head.

    The complaint noted the child was taken to the doctor on June 24 for the same broken right arm, and the complaint said the mother indicated he fell at Cousin's Subs in Waukesha a few days before that. According to the complaint, investigators looked at surveillance video, which showed the child did fall at Cousin's, but he was favoring his forearm, not his upper arm, after the fall. He was caught on camera doing things he wouldn't have been able to do if the fall caused the broken arm, the complaint said. The complaint noted he was seen on June 27 for facial swelling -- and Bookout couldn't explain what might have caused it.

    Prosecutors said on July 17, Bookout indicated the child fell down approximately six to eight carpeted steps at their apartment complex. He then went to sleep for approximately three hours. When the parents tried to wake him up, he was unresponsive and had vomited in bed. He wasn't breathing on his own when he arrived at the hospital.

    The child's mother told investigators Bookout texted her after the fall, and was keeping her apprised of the boy's status. She said she "had been suspicious of Bookout possibly causing injury" to the boy, noting that he could have pulled his arm too hard. She said she was suspicious when she got home from the store on July 17 and Bookout had cleaned the living room and kitchen, which he normally doesn't do.

    Bookout was again questioned about the child's injuries, and advised that they weren't consistent with him falling down the stairs. He maintained he didn't hit the child at any time, and the child "just fell down the stairs." The complaint noted the mother and stepfather advised they didn't notice any bruising on the child until it was observed at the hospital.

    The boy was declared brain dead on July 20, at the age of 6. An autopsy revealed he suffered severe blunt force trauma to his head. The complaint said doctors advised "it was most likely (the boy) became immediately unresponsive upon the blunt force trauma to his head." When questioned about the amount of force necessary to cause the injuries, the complaint said the medical examiner indicated it would have been "extreme," and likened it to a direct blow to the skull, such as a stomp, a slam against a concrete wall, or a crash.

    Several days after giving his first three statements to police, the complaint said Bookout asked to speak with a detective, and indicated on July 17, as he went out to the garage for a cigarette, the child was on his shoulders, and on the way down the stairs, the boy was squirming. Bookout said he has a pre-existing neck injury, and he was wearing a boot due to a broken foot. He said he lost his grip on the child, and the boy fell forward over him, falling onto the stairs and then tumbling down the rest of the stairs, telling investigators, "I dropped him."

    The complaint noted on July 17, the boy was wearing an arm sling to support his fractured right arm, making only his left arm fully accessible, making the claim that the boy was on Bookout's shoulders "somewhat incredible." The investigation revealed the boy's head would not have cleared the stairwell if he had been on Bookout's shoulders, and the boy's injuries were "wholly inconsistent with an unintentional action on Bookout's part, given the velocity and force necessary to cause the injuries."

    The boy's death was ruled a homicide.

    As for the fail to provide sex offender information, repeater charge, prosecutors said Bookout was convicted of second degree sexual assault of a child in March 2006, and was required to register as a sex offender, and renew that registration annually. Additionally, he was required to update the DOC as to any change in address. The complaint said he was last in compliance in January 2019, and non-compliant as of July 1. The complaint said the DOC was "unable to locate him," as he was no longer living at his prior address on S. 6th Street in Milwaukee.

    Bookout made his initial appearance in court in Waukesha County on Tuesday. Cash bond was set at $500,000 in the case involving the homicide charges, and $10,000 for the sex offender charge. In court on Friday, Aug. 2 for preliminary hearings, probable cause was found for further proceedings, and an arraignment was scheduled for Aug. 26.