Grandfather speaks out about death of 3-year-old boy

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GILLESPIE, IL (KTVI) - There were new details Wednesday on the investigation into the death of a three-year-old boy from Gillespie, Illinois.

Little Ryder Vercoglio was apparently beaten to death, said his grandfather, Bill Vercoglio.

Illinois State Police and Gillespie Police confirm a homicide investigation, but say little else.

Ryder’s grandfather said he wanted people to know what happened to his darling grandson.

He also wanted them to know about a scholarship fund to help someone else live a life Ryder won’t get to live.

“The cutest dimples you ever saw,” Bill Vercoglio said.  “That little guy you never know – he might have been somebody who cured cancer or aids or something.”

A grandfather’s grief has been made only worse by the wait for an arrest.

It’s been nearly three weeks since the 911 call from Ryder’s home:  a reported seizure.

Ryder was in the care of his mother’s live-in boyfriend, police said.

Doctors found Ryder had severe brain and spinal cord trauma.

He died at Cardinal-Glennon Hospital two days later.

“[Doctors] said he was hit with enough force to be equivalent to being in a car seat, not strapped in, that car seat hitting a brick wall at 60 mph, and him flying through the windshield.  He was hit with that much force,” Bill Vercoglio said.

Police have yet to name a suspect or make an arrest.

Ryder’s grandpa said he and Ryder’s father Troy, were confident the slow pace of the investigation was a sign police were being thorough to ensure justice for a family that boasted 4 living generations New Year’s Day.

That ended 4 days later with the passing of a boy who’d beaten the odds from his 1st breath, born premature, weighing 2 pounds.  He spent more than three months in a hospital, before going home for the first time Christmas Day, 2011.

“I didn’t think he was going to make it then.  Glad he did.  He was just a bundle of joy,” Bill Vercoglio said, fighting tears.  “I’d love for the scholarship to grow to enough that it would actually be able to put somebody through college to be a doctor or a nurse or somebody that could help or a social worker to try to help kids like this.”

He said Ryder’s organs were donated, saving the life of a girl in Nebraska.

Ryder's father is in nursing school now.

He and Ryder’s grandfather live together.

Ryder was in their care 2 days-a-week.

The Vercoglio men are struggling under the emotional weight of their profound grief.

You can donate to the Ryder Austin Vercoglio Scholarship Fund at the First National Bank of Staunton: 

115 Elm Street
Staunton, IL 62088

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