TOWN OF JOHNSTOWN — For the first time since announcing the investigation last week, state police Wednesday called the death of a 7-year-old boy in Johnstown suspicious, and said it is working with both the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office and Fulton County Child Protective Services.
For more than a week, New York State Police have been investigating the death of Hunter Degroat, though details about the case remain limited.
Troopers found Degroat unresponsive in his Johnstown home on the afternoon of Aug. 9. He was later pronounced dead at Nathan Littauer Hospital. Troop G Acting Public Information Officer Stephanie O’Neil said that a family member called 911.
On Monday, O’Neil confirmed the autopsy had been completed, but final results were pending. Fulton County Deputy Coroner Sherry Brown said Wednesday they are not able to release the cause of death.
Police have not released the exact location of the incident, stating they believe it could impede the investigation because the area was not well-populated.
While state police have indicated the involvement of Child Protective Services, the Fulton County Department of Social Services, which oversees that agency, declined to confirm involvement.
“I can’t say whether or not we are handling that case,” Commissioner Ann Solar said Wednesday.
However, Solar said that among the responsibilities of the department is to handle reports of child abuse or neglect, of which some do include fatalities of children.
“Those would have to be fatalities that are suspected or there’s some reason to believe they might have been perpetrated by someone in the family,” she said. “So we don’t get involved in every child’s death, only those that may be associated with people who are regularly in the household.”
She said any police investigation focuses on the crime and the person who committed the crime, but a case by Child Protective Services would look at things such as if there are other children in the home where the incident took place and the risk of safety to that child or children.
Cases, Solar said, generally take approximately 60 days.
Degroat lived within the Greater Johnstown School District, but was part of a HFM BOCES program through February, according to district officials.
Both the district and BOCES have since declined to comment further, noting the active investigation.
State police did not return a request for additional comment prior to publication.
Anyone with information can contact police at [email protected].