A Kansas man is facing first-degree murder and arson charges after allegedly intentionally starting a house fire that killed his young child.
Nicholas Ecker, a resident of Prairie Village, Kansas, was arraigned in a Johnson County courtroom on Tuesday afternoon for an incident that occurred just before 1:00 a.m. local time on Sunday morning in the nearby city of Shawnee.
According to a release sent out by the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office, Ecker (pictured in his mugshot, above) is now being held on $1 million bond.
Details about the specific incident are scarce at this point, but multiple media outlets report that the child, who was born in 2020, was killed in the late-night blaze. The fire had “fully engulfed” the home quickly, even before firefighters could arrive on scene. Once there, sadly, the baby was pronounced dead after firefighters discovered the child’s body inside.
KMBC reports that Ecker apparently had a contentious relationship with the child’s mother going back some time. Ecker had been previously prohibited from visiting her Shawnee residence after he had been arrested on misdemeanor charges for allegedly breaking a protection order by contacting her earlier this month. Now, after being arraigned in this case, Ecker is facing a murder rap in the awful incident. Both the police and fire departments in the city of Shawnee are investigating further. In the meantime, local news outlets report that family members and neighbors have started a memorial in remembrance of the child outside the burned home.
Shawnee Fire Department Deputy Chief Corey Sands shared the department’s condolences with the family and grieving loved ones, telling Newsweek (below):
“Our hearts go out to the family. Shawnee is a tight-knit community. Our hearts go out to everyone.”
Family friend Cory Holmes spoke to KMBC about the awful incident, as well, explaining his shock about what happened:
“It’s hard to process something like this. Just shock and awe, I never thought I’d see anything like this happen to this family.”
By Monday, WIBW reported that a GoFundMe account had been created to help the child’s mother and remaining family members during their time of need. A woman named Jackie Phelps, purportedly the deceased child’s aunt, wrote about the tragedy on the donation page:
“Please please please keep our family in your prayers. We need it badly! My beautiful baby nephew has gained his wings We love you Junior! Junior was so precious and such a good boy! … They have lost all of their belongings too from this horrific house fire. Our family has gone through hard times lately but we will overcome. Thank you all for your support and love. Any cent counts and will help tremendously! We love you all.”
Early on Wednesday morning, the fundraiser page had already exceeded its goal, collecting more than $8,000 for the family.
Here is more on the terrible tragedy, from KMBC (below):
Our condolences go out to that poor baby’s mother and grieving family as they grapple with this unimaginable tragedy.
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