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Fort Drum soldier accused of murder dropped or threw child against hard surface, charge sheet indicates

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FORT DRUM — An Army charge sheet against a soldier from post facing military charges of murder and other offenses states that he grabbed his 4-year-old stepson by the torso and dropped or threw him against a hard surface, causing injuries that led to his death.

According to the charge sheet, Staff Sgt. Raheem O. Hollis, 31, allegedly lied to investigators about the Dec. 10 death of Michael L. Sanders, and told other people in the home to lie and not talk about it.

The report states the impact happened after Sgt. Hollis grabbed Michael and dropped or threw him “with a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm.” As a result of the impact against the hard surface, the child suffered cardiac tamponade and a lacerated liver.

Cardiac tamponade is described as the buildup of fluid around the heart that restricts its movement.

The child died at Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, after being taken there by ambulance from an on-post residence.

The documents were obtained Tuesday morning through a Freedom of Information Act request to the post.

Sgt. Hollis, of Newark, N.J., was charged on July 31 with murder, manslaughter, making a false official statement, assault and obstruction of justice in connection to the death. According to the documents, Sgt. Hollis made an official statement that “I did not touch Michael,” and “I have never picked up Michael and dropped him for any reason,” both of which were determined by investigators to be “totally false.” He also allegedly told other people in the home to tell others that the child died from a fall down the stairs.

Sgt. Hollis currently is facing pretrial Article 32 proceedings, which are comparable to a grand jury in a civilian courtroom. The proceedings will determine which of the initial charges will go to court martial.

The charges against Sgt. Hollis carry lengthy prison time. However, a post spokeswoman said on Tuesday morning that the death penalty would not be considered.

Two older children lived in the home at the time of the incident, and they currently are listed as safe and in the custody of the Jefferson County Department of Social Services.

The identity of the child’s mother has not been revealed, with only a person named Miss Sanders listed once in the document.

Sgt. Hollis is a combat engineer with the A Company, 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team; he arrived at the post in August 2012. He has been in the Army since 2000 and had three deployments to Iraq: in 2003, 2005 and 2008. He has received multiple honors, including the Bronze Star, Presidential Unit Citation, four Meritorious Unit Commendations, Army Superior Unit Award, three Army Good Conduct Medals and several honors related to his deployments.

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