In the middle of the morning, the boy’s mother had fallen asleep in her car, parked just down the street from her Lynn apartment. Her boyfriend, Anthony Gideika, had passed out on the building’s front steps.
Her son, barely 2, was walking the streets alone.
The toddler crossed a busy street, two people familiar with the June 2012 case said Friday, and wandered by a nearby barbershop, where people called police. That day, child welfare workers took the boy from his home and into protective custody, never to return. The child, now 3, has special needs, according to one of the two people, and requires substantial care.
Less than a year later, the mother, Jennifer Nelson, had twin boys, who were born with drugs in their system. The state’s child welfare agency, which had placed the older boy in foster care, allowed them to stay in the home, even as they voiced concerns about the fitness of Nelson and Gideika to raise them.
“It boggles the mind,” said one of the people familiar with the case.
Both people spoke Friday on condition that their names not be printed, citing sensitivity to the feelings of the family.
This week, 3-month-old Chase Gideika was fatally beaten, allegedly by Gideika, an Army veteran who had recently learned the twins were not his biological children.
The Department of Children and Families, which has come under criticism for allowing the children to remain in a troubled home, has said it removed the toddler after a report of negligence. It has declined to provide specifics, citing federal guidelines and policies that limit public disclosure of child welfare cases.
But details were recounted in nearly identical terms by the two individuals interviewed by the Globe. They described the toddler as having apparently been left unattended for a significant amount of time after the couple fell asleep, casting further doubt on the agency’s decision to leave the twins in the home.
A department spokesman declined to comment Friday. Prosecutors with the Essex district attorney’s office and Lynn police declined to comment.
The department has launched an investigation of its handling of the case, and on Thursday Governor Deval Patrick’s administration ordered the Office of the Child Advocate to conduct a review.
In brief comments Thursday, Patrick defended the state’s child welfare agency, and said the case did not raise broader concerns.
The agency was providing the family with support services, including treatment programs and a monthly visit by a social worker. On the last visit in early June, the worker found the twins were healthy and being cared for.
The couple were also receiving support from their extended family in caring for the children, according to department officials.
On Wednesday, Gideika was charged with beating Chase, who died Tuesday from massive head injuries. Gideika, 32, told police he had been having a rough time since learning that Chase and his brother were not his children, a discovery that “set him off” and led him to abuse prescription drugs.
Early Monday morning, Gideika called 911 when he saw the baby was no longer breathing. When responders arrived at the scene, Gideika was “despondent and unemotional,” police said.
Under questioning, he said he did not intentionally hurt the infant but had dropped him several times, once when he fell asleep on his feet in the kitchen.
A pediatrician specializing in child abuse told police Chase had sustained a skull fracture and that a lens in his eye had become dislocated, a traumatic injury she had never seen before.
“The dislocated lens in the eye came from massive head trauma, indicative of a massive slam against something,” the police report stated. The doctor said “it took a lot of blows” to cause such injuries.
The victim’s twin brother, Anthony Jr., was not harmed, authorities said.