The Medical Examiner's Office has ruled the manner of death of baby Dontrell Melvin as a homicide, Hallandale Beach Police said Friday.
Police also said that the cause of death was violence of undetermined means.
"The Hallandale Beach police Department will continue to investigate this matter and has reclassified the status of the case from a Suspicious Death to a Homicide," police said in an email statement.
The state attorney's office and police will meet, probably next week, to determine how to proceed with the case and whether charges will be changed, Hallandale Beach Police said.
The boy, whose remains were found in the backyard of a house where his parents once lived, was 5 months old when he was last seen around July 2011.
The skeletal remains that were discovered at 106 NW 1st Ave. were sent to the University of North Texas for DNA tests.
The parents have pleaded not guilty to charges related to the boy’s disappearance. His mother, Brittney J. Sierra, 21, faces a charge of neglect with bodily harm. The boy's father, Calvin Melvin, 27, faces two charges of child neglect in addition to the three charges for providing false information to police during the investigation of the disappearance of his son.
Melvin's attorney, Ed Hoeg, was puzzled by the medical examiner's findings.
"They claim that it’s a homicide now. I don't know how they can say that. And also of undetermined violence, is that was the language was?" Hoeg said. "I don't know what that means. If it’s undetermined, how can they even say it was violence? How can they say it was a homicide?”
Hoeg has said he does not believe his client had anything to do with the disappearance of Dontrell.
According to police, Sierra said in a sworn recorded statement that she last saw her son in July 2011, when Melvin took him for a walk at night and returned without him. She filed a police report that night. Records show two officers did make contact with Sierra the night of July 15, 2011 – but neither one of the officers could remember when asked recently what the complaint was about. That is under investigation.
Around Christmas 2011, police said, Sierra applied for free Christmas gifts through the "Shop With a Cop" program. The application listed Dontrell as being nine and a half months old.
Police said Renee Menendez, Dontrell's grandmother, received benefits and food stamps for him for five months after the boy was reportedly last seen.
Sierra’s attorney, H. Dohn Williams, could not be reached for comment Friday.