Anthony Trakemon Powell appeared in court Tuesday over allegations that he struck his 3-year-old son Tristan "on the head with an open hand," according to the Houston Police Department.
Powell's sister Prosha Land said in court documents she saw Powell "discipline" her nephew "multiple times" with "his hand and with a belt" for several accidents and "lack of progress" in his son's potty training.
Land said last week she observed Powell strike Tristan in the head after he had an accident, causing the toddler to fall from a standing position to his bottom. Then, Land said in court documents, she said Powell picked up his son, "like a rag doll," and hit him again, in the head. The final strike knocked him over, causing him to hit his head on the tile floor.
After the incident, Land said Tristan "exhibited unusual behavior," and repeated several times "he was sleepy."
The boy, who usually wanted to be held by Land, only wanted to lie on the floor, his aunt said in court documents.
The next morning, Powell woke up Land to tell her that Tristan wasn't breathing. Land recalls hearing Tristan wheezing in a manner that sounded like an asthma attack. She tried to administer a "breathing treatment," she said in court documents, but he was unresponsive, so she called 911.
Doctors said Tristan suffered brain swelling and multiple skull fractures. He died a day later.
Harris County Judge Catherine Harris set bond Tuesday for Powell at $250,000. According to a spokesman for the district attorney's office, Powell remains jailed.
A second son, younger than Tristan, was also hospitalized after Powell allegedly scalded him with hot water.
Land, who referred to Tristan as the "boy she never had," has been charged with failing to stop or report the assaults. She is in jail on $30,000 bond.
According to court documents, the boys had been living with their mother in Jasper, Texas, but had been staying with their father since May 10. The victim's mother said she allowed her sons to go to Houston with their father so Powell could get to know them better.
CNN's attempts to reach attorneys for Powell and Land were unsuccessful Wednesday.
According to court documents, Powell admitted to striking Tristan with a belt because he was trying to potty train him, but he denies striking him in the head. Land said she loved Tristan as if he were her own child.