Mom, Boyfriend Charged With Murdering Boy

The mother of an 8-year-old boy whose lifeless body was found floating in a Boise, Idaho, canal has been charged along with her live-in boyfriend with murder in the child's death.

Robert Manwill, a little boy with an impish grin, disappeared July 24 and his body was found in the canal Aug. 3.

The boyfriend, Daniel Ehrlick Jr., 36, allegedly tortured the boy, repeatly beating him on his head and body with his hands, knees and fists, and also subjected him to other forms of physical and emotional abuse, according to the indictment against him unsealed today in an Ada County court.

Robert died on or about July 24, the day he was reported missing, as a result of the injuries he allegedly suffered at Ehrlick's hands, the indictment said.

Ehrlick tortured the boy "with the intent to cause suffering, to execute vengeance or to satisfy some sadistic inclination by inflicting on Robert G. Manwill extreme or prolonged acts of brutality with the intent to cause suffering," the indictment said.

The boy's mother, Melissa Jenkins, 30, allegedly knew about the beatings but never got him medical attention. Instead, according to the indictment, she allegedly aided in the abuse and "actively and repeatedly" hid her son from anyone who might have stopped it or helped the boy.

Jenkins and Ehrlick were both charged with first degree murder, which could carry the death penalty. Both were also charged with failing to report the boy's death to law enforcement.

Neither entered a plea at their court appearance today when the indictment was unsealed.

Jenkins and Ehrlick were both being held in the Ada County Jail. Ehrlick was held on the murder charge without bond, while bond was set at $2 million for Jenkins, Boise Police Department Deputy Chief Jim Kerns said.

Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Roger Bourne told The Associated Press today that no decision has been made about whether to seek the death penalty. Prosecutors have 60 days to make a decision.

"We've been involved intensely on the presentation of this case but that decision has not been made yet," Bourne said.

Police had kept quiet about the progress of their investigation after Robert was found, saying only that they believed his death was the result of foul play.

Then, Tuesday night, Boise police announced that they had arrested Robert's mother and her boyfriend.

"When Robert's body was found, Monday, Aug. 3, just over two weeks ago, the case went from a missing child to a homicide investigation," Kerns said. "At that time, I sent a strong message on behalf of Boise police and all those in this community who were touched by the tragic, untimely death of this little boy that justice would not be denied Robert Manwill.

"The arrests are a major step in the investigation, but the investigation into the death of Robert Manwill is still very much ongoing," Kerns said.

Detectives are still asking anyone with any information about Robert, his mother or her boyfriend, particularly about whatever they might have done in the days leading up to the boy's disappearance, to contact police.

Thousands of volunteers had helped in the search for the boy, whose disappearance brought an outpouring of sympathy and concern throughout the city.

Robert was visiting his mother at the time he disappeared. His father, Charles Manwill, of New Plymouth, Idaho, is divorced from Jenkins and had custody of the boy. Jenkins only had visitation rights.

Jenkins has a history of violence against her children, and is on probation for fracturing the skull of Robert's infant half brother. That boy was taken from her by the state in 2008.

According to court records, Jenkins "did willfully inflict" injury to the infant "by striking the child's head on a surface, causing a fracture to the child's skull," on Oct. 19, 2008. She received a sentenced of 29 days of work release and was put on probation for two years.

The Associated Press reported that Jenkins also has a third child, a 2 1/2-year-old daughter, whose father has custody. Jenkins has visitation rights. Ehrlick is banned from being alone with the girl, according to the AP, but court documents don't say why.

Ehrlick has a criminal record including convictions for burglary, grand theft, battery and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The discovery of Robert's body came after several police agencies spent the weekend digging up the backyard of an Ada County home that police told ABC News affiliate KIVI-TV in Boise is rented by people who know Erhlick.

Evidence Found at Missing Boy's Mother's Home Showed 'Suspicious Circumstances'

At the time, police declined to say what was found to lead them to the backyard, saying only that they were following multiple leads and searching multiple locations looking for the boy.

After the search, though, Kerns said that with the help of the FBI they had found evidence they hoped would bring them closer to finding out what happened to the boy.

He also said that evidence discovered during in a search of the Jenkins' home "shows there are suspicious circumstances regarding Robert's disappearance."

KIVI-TV reported that Boise police spent hours at Jenkins' home, towing the family's car and leaving with bags of evidence.'s Sarah Netter and Emily Friedman contributed to this report.