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Two other children in home of Fort Drum soldier charged with murder of 4-year-old

FORT DRUM — Two other children who lived in the home of a soldier accused of killing his 4-year-old stepson are both safe and in the custody of Jefferson County’s Department of Social Services.

Staff Sgt. Raheem O. Hollis, 31, of Newark, N.J., was charged on July 31 with murder, manslaughter, making a false official statement, assault and obstruction of justice in connection to the death of Michael Sanders on Dec. 10. The child died at Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, after being taken by ambulance to the hospital from an on-post residence.

Laura C. Cerow, the department’s commissioner, said the other two children are older than the child that died.

Mrs. Cerow, whose investigators have helped in the death investigation from the beginning, said she was happy to see charges were filed. She added that most state and local court rules require their work to be completed within 90 days, and that her department’s report indicating criminal activity had been filed for months.

“We can’t wait,” Ms. Cerow said. “We have mandated timelines to follow.”

However, she pointed out her department’s work varied from the military investigator’s work, including having a lower burden of proof to make the determination.

She said she could not provide any further details about the two children, or about any mother in the home, stating such information would be damaging to the family. Mrs. Cerow said she could also not provide details on what information led her investigators to indicate a crime had occurred, since it could negatively affect legal proceedings against Sgt. Hollis.

Sgt. Hollis is currently facing pretrial Article 32 proceedings, which are comparable to a grand jury in a civilian courtroom. However, the proceeding allows for both parties to be in attendance and hear evidence and may be made open to the general public, whereas grand juries are typically for the prosecution and are closed from public view.

The proceedings, which investigate the evidence of the case, will determine which of the initial charges will go to court martial.

His murder charge could lead to a death sentence or life imprisonment if it is determined that the child’s death was premeditated or as a part of the perpetration of another serious crime.

The post on Wednesday passed along additional details about Sgt. Hollis, a combat engineer in the 1st Brigade Combat Team who arrived on post in August 2012.

Sgt. Hollis has been in the Army since 2000, and during his career he had three deployments to Iraq: in 2003, 2005 and 2008. During his career he received multiple honors, including the Bronze Star, Presidential Unit Citation, four Meritorius Unit Commendations, Army Superior Unit Award, three Army Good Conduct Medals and several honors related to his deployments.

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