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Roscommon Father Admits to Killing Infant Son, Accused of Murder

"You almost can’t put words to it. For somebody to do this to their own baby is almost unthinkable."

A horrific case of child abuse…

Deputies say a father admitted to killing his one-month-old son after days of abuse leading up to it.

It started with a 9-1-1 call from a concerned grandmother, saying baby Zhain’s parents found him unresponsive …

A medical examination revealed something much darker.

Now the baby’s father, 20-year-old Donny Hancock is accused of murder.

Deputies were called to a home in Backus Township on March 2nd around 5 a.m.

They arrested Hancock yesterday.

9&10’s Cody Boyer and photojournalist Jeff Blakeman have been following this case and have more details from investigators.


Investigators say Donny Hancock was abusing his son for days, leading up to the violent act that killed him.

They say he then lied to cover it all up for more than a month.

"I don’t understand it in my own head," says Undersheriff Ben Lowe, Roscommon County Sheriff’s Office. "It still doesn’t make sense to me."

Undersheriff Lowe says the case began with a call from a grandmother in distress.

Her grandson wasn’t breathing.

"Our deputies were dispatched to an unresponsive infant," Lowe says. "At that time, when we responded, a baby had already been removed to the hospital by ambulance. They did some initial interviews at that time and we started an investigation, not knowing what the cause of death was.”

A pathologist found a clue…a serious head injury.

“Several days later, we were contacted by the pathologist, who had completed her examination of the baby and were informed, at that time, that there was significant trauma to the head of the baby," Lowe says. “Something undetermined at that point had caused trauma to the baby, leading to the death.”

Deputies say Zhain’s father, Donny Hancock claimed to know nothing, at first .

Following a series of interviews, Lowe says they went back to learn more.

"At the time, [the parents] denied any involvement," Lowe says. "Yesterday, our detective did an interview with the suspect again. He did admit that he had lied several times throughout the investigation, apologized for that. He admitted to causing the death of the baby."

That was only the beginning.

"He admitted to a history of abuse of the baby over the past seven to nine days prior to the death of the baby and what had happened the morning of the baby’s death was obviously the last in a string of events of abuse," Lowe says. "There are a couple of things, a motive involved, but we are not commenting on those at this time."

Lowe says the tragic nature of this crime has investigators still piecing together what could have happened to bring it to the death of a child.

“We see a lot of sad situations everyday," Lowe says. "There’s a lot of things that come up in this job that can make this job difficult and this is probably one of the saddest situations I’ve seen in my career here.”

"When it comes with kids, they are so vulnerable," says Becky Yuncker, executive director of the Northern Michigan Children’s Assessment Center in Roscommon. "It’s important that we, as adults, have to stand up and protect them.”

People who work with abused children at the Northern Michigan Children’s Assessment Center say crimes like these often go unnoticed for too long.

"It is hard to ask for help for anybody and for all of us," Yuncker says. "I think finding a support system and if you have family members, neighbors, if you have a church, schools, teachers, anybody, just going on in and asking for some help."

Yuncker says the younger the child, the more difficult the case.

“When we are dealing with infants, we always have to take into consideration those families need a lot of support," Yuncker says. "When we are dealing with young babies and young parents, there are a lot of stressors. We as a community need to provide families with support.”

Yet, both investigators and Yuncker say help is available.

“There’s a lot of services in the community that we can provide. There’s home services, intervention services," Yuncker says. “Anybody can call the center here. We have a family advocate and they can call 989-275-7145."

“To our knowledge, no one else other than the suspect had knowledge of the abuse but if you suspect that something could be going on, by all means call law enforcement," Lowe says. "Call the Department of Health and Human Services. Report that. It could save a life.”

The undersheriff says at this time, Zhain’s mother has been cooperating in the investigation fully and is not a suspect.

“By all accounts, the mother did not know what was going on as far as the abuse of the baby," Lowe says. “The original report was that he had taken the baby out to feed the baby and that the baby had stopped breathing. He then woke up the mother of the baby and, from there on, obviously called other family members.”

Donny Hancock could face life in prison.

The judge denied Hancock bond today at his arraignment.

He is scheduled to appear again in court at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 11.

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