Prosecutors Review Toddler's Overdose Death
Date 2014/4/28 4:35:24 | Topic: News
|HOUSE SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) - Nearly six months have passed since a House Springs toddler died of a morphine overdose, but no one has been charged in his death.|
Three women who cared for 22-month-old Carson Swyres say he might still be alive had the state Children’s Division more thoroughly investigated reports of his neglect. And they are upset that no charges have been filed in the case.
“We need to know what happened and why nothing has been done. Why is this taking so long?” said Cristina Adams, who said she sought help for Carson, as she stood by his grave this week.
Carson also had amphetamines, opiates and meth in his urine, according to toxicology reports from the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office, and he suffered from pneumonia.
Carson died Oct. 28 after being found unresponsive in the 5700 block of Brookstone Drive in a House Springs mobile home park where he lived with his mother, Lacey Kertz, and her father, Charles Politte, according to Children’s Division reports.
Reports show that Carson was under the care of Kertz and Politte when he died.
Dr. Michael Graham, who performed the autopsy, said the amount of morphine in Carson’s system would have been enough to kill an adult who didn’t have a tolerance for the drug.
But he couldn’t say how much morphine Carson had ingested because some could have metabolized. He also could not say when or how the child ingested the drugs.
Jefferson County sheriff’s Lt. John Dolan said charges being considered include endangering the welfare of a child, drug possession and involuntary manslaughter.
The sheriff’s office sent its reports on the case to the prosecutor’s office about six weeks ago, Dolan said.
Prosecuting attorney Forrest Wegge said Thursday that the case is being reviewed and declined to comment further.
A spokeswoman for the Missouri Division of Social Services, which oversees the Children’s Division, offered few details beyond what was in reports released to the Post-Dispatch under open records laws. She said information regarding drug testing or drug usage would be redacted, and that the Children’s Division has no legal authority to require a drug test.
“The death of any child is a tragedy, and the Department of Social Services will continue to work closely with law enforcement and the court on this case,” the department said.
Children’s Division reports prepared after Carson’s death paint a grim picture of the little boy’s home.
The reports describe the house as covered in trash, including the beds, and say Kertz slept on an air mattress on the living-room floor with Carson. The toilets didn’t appear to be working, and buckets of urine and feces, as well as rotting food, were found in the house.
Reports also say drugs and drug paraphernalia were found, but they do not give specifics.
No one answered the door at the Brookstone Drive house this week or returned a message left there. Other efforts to reach Kertz, 26, and Politte were not successful. Kertz denied any wrongdoing to Children’s Division employees, according to reports.
Efforts to reach Carson’s father, Neil Swyres, were also unsuccessful.
Carson, his half brother Caden, and Kertz lived on-and-off for much of Carson’s life with Judith Stadler and her husband in French Village in St. Francois County, Stadler said this week.
She is Caden’s paternal great-grandmother. Caden, now 5, and Carson have different fathers. Caden’s father had sole custody of him when Carson died.
“I couldn’t let those babies be out on the street,” said Stadler, 70, as to why Kertz and the boys lived with her.
Sheryl Sullivan, Stadler’s daughter, said Kertz breast-fed Carson, which could explain the drugs in his system.
She and others made several reports to child abuse hotlines alleging drug abuse by Kertz and unsafe living conditions when she lived away from Stadler, but they felt powerless to do more.
“If we said anything, the first words out of her mouth were, ‘I’ll take the babies and you’ll never see them again,’” Sullivan said.
When Children’s Division employees investigated, they never found anything to merit removing the boys from Kertz’s care, reports show.
In one such case, a Children’s Division employee visited Kertz’s apartment in Festus on May 31, 2012, in response to allegations that Kertz used drugs, stayed up all night and slept all day, and left the kids alone. Kertz apologized for her messy apartment, saying she had been gone for three days and left animals there. She also said her children were high-maintenance and that she sometimes went outside to smoke while leaving the door open so she could watch them.
The next day, the worker returned and the apartment was clean.
“She said she knows she needs to stay on top of her house and was very excited to show me how clean it was now,” the report said.
But that report also said an employee spoke with Travis Denoyer, Caden’s father, who said that Kertz abused pills and was about to be evicted.
In July, Stadler said she caught Kertz digging Stadler’s husband’s prescription pills out of a locked box and called police, which led to Kertz and the boys moving out.
A few months later, Carson was dead.
This week, Stadler, Sullivan and Adams, who is Sullivan’s daughter, gathered around Carson’s grave at Shepherd Hills Cemetery in Barnhart, a trip they make frequently.
Stadler bought a headstone for the plot, she said. For now, just a plastic marker with Carson’s picture, date of birth and date of death shows where he’s buried.
A picture of his half brother Caden was tucked onto the marker. A blue Easter bunny sat on his grave.
Stadler clutched a stuffed Precious Moments angel that Carson loved to snuggle with, her hands shaking as she looked at the little boy’s plot.
“It’s all I have left of him,” she said.