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Questions remain for family, community after 3-year-old's homicide in Breckenridge

BRECKENRIDGE, Minn. -- The grandmother of a Breckenridge toddler whose death is being investigated as a homicide said she called child protective services one week before the boy was killed.

Toys have been piling up for days at Park Manor apartments in Breckenridge, Minn., where 3-year-old Winter Barker was found not breathing on April 10. WDAY-TV
Toys have been piling up for days at Park Manor apartments in Breckenridge, Minn., where 3-year-old Winter Barker was found not breathing on April 10. WDAY-TV

BRECKENRIDGE, Minn. - The grandmother of a Breckenridge toddler whose death is being investigated as a homicide said she called child protective services one week before the boy was killed.

Now, she and the community are looking for answers on 3-year-old Winter Barker's death on Tuesday, April 10, when the boy was found not breathing at Park Manor apartments where he lived with his father and father's girlfriend.

Toys have been piling up over the past week or so in honor and memory of Barker, but relatives, friends and community members said they don't just want to leave toys. They want answers and justice for the child, along with his family.

"I looked at that shrine over there, and it just breaks my heart," said Jodie Olson of Breckenridge.

Days after police were called to the apartment, neighbors learned 3-year-old Winter Barker's lifeless body was found. CPR was attempted, but emergency crews weren't able to revive him, and he was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

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Breckenridge resident Ivory Murphy said she found out through her taxi driver.

"We were all like, 'What?' Because we had never known about anything happening like that, let alone in our own apartment building," Murphy said.

Relatives were just as shocked, including Winter's grandmother, Rita Finley.

Finley said she had hoped to gain custody of the boy when her daughter and Winter's biological mother, Korey Finley, went to jail for violating a probation order. She said after the boy's father got custody, she called child protection services because she was concerned about Winter's safety.

She said she was unable to get in touch with the family, adding "they didn't know anything." Finley also said Winter's father, Tracy Brant, is in jail on unrelated charges, and Brant's current girlfriend is the one who called her to tell her Winter had died.

"My response to her was what did you do to him? And she said, 'No. He was sick with the flu the day before and was throwing up,' " Finley recalled.

As winter turns to spring in Minnesota, the community and family are left uncertain of what happened to this boy named after the season.

No one has been charged so far in the 3-year-old's homicide. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office in St. Paul said last week that blunt force trauma caused his death.

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WDAY-TV reached out to Wilkin County Family Services for information about Winter's case, but a reporter was referred to the chief of Breckenridge Police.

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