Shayaa Yusef Forbes (Courtesy of Paulding County Sheriff's Officer)
ACWORTH, Ga. -- The death of a 12-year-old boy in Acworth Friday night revealed "horrific" evidence that the boy had been physically abused for weeks, months or longer, according to the Paulding County Sheriff's Office.
The boy's father, 32-year old Shayaa Forbes, is now in jail charged with cruelty to children. Police added a murder charge Wednesday and said the child's body "had severe visible signs of child abuse," according to Paulding County Sheriff's Cpl. Ashley Henson.
READ| the official report on Eric's death
On Tuesday, the boy's biological mother appeared at a hearing, hoping to win custody of their 10-year old daughter.
Ashlei Majors admits she left her family several years ago. She claims it was to escape an abusive relationship, but told 11Alive she never thought Forbes would hurt their children.
Majors was shocked to see Forbes sitting in handcuffs just feet away from her at the hearing.
"I didn't know he was going to be in there. My heart jumped in my throat when I seen him. My hands almost jumped..." said Majors, stopping before finishing her sentence.
Paulding County released portions of the 911 call made the night Eric Forbes died. His father is heard telling the operator that his son had been taking a bath, when he found him lifeless in the tub.
Operator: Do you know how long he's been in the bathtub?
Shayaa Forbes: He couldn't have been in there long because I had just checked on him. And when I went back in there he was just, he was just dead. I thought he might be asleep or something.
The GBI has yet to release its autopsy report into exactly why the boy died, but investigators say it was obvious as soon as they arrived that the boy had been mistreated.
"The injuries ranged from extensive bruising to bite marks to lacerations, along with other types of injuries that would indicate physical abuse," said Paulding County Sheriff's Corporal Ashley Henson. "It appeared that it had gone on for some time, because the bruising was in different stages, fresh bruises as well as older bruises.... From the types of injuries that the young man received, it's just horrific."
Friends are asking themselves why they never noticed any evidence of abuse.
A next-door neighbor, Russell Utterberg, said Monday that he would see Shayaa Forbes and Eric and Eric's little sister playing out front every evening.
"You know we'd come out here and they would play ball, when he would throw the ball around to his kids. And I'd stand and talk to him every day," Utterberg said. There was never any indication of problems in the home, he said.
"No police coming out, no anything, no screaming, no crying.... He just really acted like he loved the little boy, and loved his little daughter, too."
Monday evening, a mother and her young children drove up to the Forbes home and placed a potted peace lily in front, along with a hand-written note to Eric, "Rest in Peace."
They are grieving for him.
"He was a nice kid," said one of the children, Jacob Day, a classmate of Eric.
"I just want to see them find out what happened."
Doug Judson, an 11Alive broadcast engineer, and his wife and children are friends with the Forbes family.
"We grieve for the family, and we just want to help out in any way we can," Judson said.
"Shayaa went to all the cheerleading practices, went to all the football practices," always active and involved with his children, Judson said.
"We just want to know what happened."
And, he said, Eric loved football.
"Loved his sports, real active. Just the kind of kid that, when he's at your house, that's how you hope your kids act when they're at someone's house. Just really nice all the time, 'yes, Sir,' 'no, Sir.' Just a real good kid."
Investigators will be interviewing Eric Forbes' little sister to try to determine if the father abused her.
Anyone with any information about possible problems in the home is asked to call the Crimes Against Children Unit, 770-445-6105.