POINT PLEASANT — A Point Pleasant woman is being held in the Gallia County Jail after being charged with child neglect-abuse resulting in death, in Mason County.
Carolyn I. Davis, 65, was arrested on May 5, following a joint investigation by the Point Pleasant Police Department (PPPD) and West Virginia State Police (WVSP), into the death of Davis’ 19-month old great grandson, Abel Stephens, on April 5.
During a press briefing on Wednesday with Cpl. A.B. Ward of WVSP and Lt. Shawn Ross of PPPD, the officers stated they arrived at a business in the 2300-block of Jackson Avenue on April 5 to investigate the report of an unresponsive toddler. Upon arrival, Stephens was already in the care of Mason County EMS and was transported to Pleasant Valley Hospital where he was later pronounced dead. Both Ward and Ross said they believe now, the toddler had already been deceased prior to EMS arriving.
According to Ward and Ross, it appears Davis drove her granddaughter, identified as the toddler’s mother, to work that morning to the business along Jackson Avenue. Inside the car at that time, in addition to Davis, the toddler and his mother, was a four-year old sibling of the toddler. Davis then left with the two children, driving to her home on Lighthouse Lane, just outside the city limits of Point Pleasant.
Upon arriving home, law enforcement alleges Davis got out of the car, as did the four-year old, and the toddler was left inside the car unattended, from roughly, 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Officers also say, from what they’ve been able to determine in the ongoing investigation, it appears the windows were rolled up on a day when the outside temperatures reached around 81 degrees. With the car parked in an open field with “no shade whatsoever,” it’s believed the interior of the car reached temperatures of 120-140 degrees, according to Ward and Ross.
Davis reportedly then went back to the car, along with the four-year old later in the afternoon, to go pick up the children’s mother from work. Davis drove herself and the two children through a fast-food drive-thru before picking up the mother. Officers said the mother got into the car and immediately noticed something was wrong with the toddler. At this point, EMS was called to the workplace parking lot of the mother to attempt to revive the child.
After conducting the autopsy, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Charleston determined there is “no other explanation” for the child’s death other than heat exposure, according to Ross. Officers are awaiting toxicology results on the child.
Though the officers couldn’t determine exactly when the toddler died, they feel he had been dead for some time before paramedics arrived at the parking lot on Jackson Avenue, likely “hours.” Officers described the Ford Taurus where the child reportedly died, as “filthy.” They said the child was in the car seat.
Both Ward and Ross said the reason why Davis left the toddler unattended, especially for that length of time, remains unknown. Though she was interviewed briefly following the death, she had since went to stay in Gallia County. Officers said there was nothing in her background to indicate she couldn’t take care of the children. They said she had been babysitting them for some time prior to the incident, likely five times a week, and following the child’s death, she was evaluated and appeared to be “clean”and “not under the influence of anything,” according to Ross.
When asked if he thought the act was intentional, Ward said: “I’m sure it was an accident. I don’t think anyone would leave a 19-month old kid in a car to suffer. I would hope it was an accident.”
Ross said upon investigating the case, it appears the child was possibly asleep at the time Davis arrived home and the morning was cool, at least to start. He said given the state of the home, which Ward described as “unlivable,” the car may’ve been a more sanitary place for the child to be, despite it being described as “filthy” by officers. Ross said Davis had had the children since January and it had been cool up until that day April 5, when the temperatures rose.
“It was a hot day and just got too hot,” Ross said.
PPPD Chief Joe Veith said though the death occurred April 5, officers wanted to be sure about filing charges and alerting the media, adding the Mason County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office had also been involved in the case.
“We wanted to be certain…this is pretty sensitive, you just don’t go out and make accusations,” Veith said. “We wanted to be sure.”
Feeling comfortable they had probable cause after consulting with the prosecuting attorney’s office, the warrant was filed and Veith said he contacted Gallia County Sheriff Matt Champlin whose deputies then located Davis and placed her in the Gallia County Jail where she remained as of Wednesday evening. Officers are awaiting her extradition back to West Virginia where she will be arraigned and a preliminary hearing set.
Child Protective Services have become involved and the four-year old child is in the custody of her mother at this time, who is reportedly staying with relatives, according to officers. There could be more charges pending in this case.
“When it’s a child, it’s tough,” Veith said of the 19-month old victim.
Both Ward and Ross said EMS crews and doctors at Pleasant Valley Hospital did everything they could to attempt to save the toddler, despite how he was found.
“The ER was just amazing that day…if they could’ve…if it would’ve just happened, they would’ve gotten him back,” Ross said.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.