Blake Litton's death hit close to home for state Rep. Rodney Schad of Versailles.
"I held him in my arms," said Schad, who has known the family for 40 years.
Rodney Schad and his wife, Ginny, attend the same church in Versailles as Jim and LaVera Miller, Blake Litton's grandparents.
"We've been great friends," Rodney Schad said.
The Schads have also known Jamie Litton, Blake's mom, since she was 6 weeks old, when Jim and LaVera Miller adopted her.
"It was pretty exciting when she came along," Rodney Schad said. "She's been part of the family practically."
When Rodney Schad found out what had happened to Blake Litton, he was determined to do what he could to improve the system for overseeing reports of child abuse in the state.
Schad co-sponsored a bill during the 2012 legislative session calling for a Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. The bill was passed out of committee, but didn't make it as far as the full House.
"The committee would be ongoing and it would look at child deaths and child abuse reports and would be continually looking for any solution that might prevent any child deaths in the state of Missouri," said Rodney Schad, who was term limited after serving eight years in the Missouri House of Representatives.
Even though he will no longer be a state legislator, Rodney Schad hasn't given up on trying to improve the system for monitoring child abuse cases in the state.
"I am still going to work with some people on this issue," he said.
After Blake Litton's death, Rodney Schad asked the Missouri Department of Family Services to release information about the handling of the case. Jim Miller, Blake Litton's grandfather, had called DFS in early January to express his concerns about the safety of his grandchildren, Blake and Faith Litton.
"What else can a parent or grandparent do?" Schad said. "He did everything he should do and the result was what he feared."
Blake died Feb. 16. Jamie Litton, Blake's mother, and her boyfriend. T.J. Presley, have been charged with second-degree murder and endangering the welfare of a child. Presley was also charged with abusing a child resulting in death.
"The department can't release any information about what the specifics were of this case, because the court has issued a gag order," Rodney Schad said. "That's frustrating, because we don't know if there's anything that can be changed in the law, but I understand we can't do anything that would endanger the prosecution."
For Rodney and Ginny Schad, it has been difficult to watch their close friends Jim and LaVera Miller suffer the loss of their only grandson.
Page 2 of 2 - "You just do the best you can to help them get through this," said Schad, who was the top vote-getter in the Morgan County Eastern District commissioner race in the August primary.