Friday, 10 December 2010

SIDS: North Carolina: Lincoln sheriff reviewing case in baby's death

 Fred Clasen-Kelly: Dec. 07, 2010
On his first day in office Monday, Lincoln County Sheriff David Carpenter said he may reopen a 2008 child death case that involved a deputy who went to sleep instead of investigating the death of a 3-month-old baby.
Carpenter told the Observer he would soon meet with detectives to discuss how the office handled the investigation of Aidan Christopher Stewart, whose death was classified as a case of sudden infant death syndrome.
An Observer story published in September examined the boy's death and the department's investigation, raising questions about whether the death had been properly classified.
Lincoln County Deputy Don Mauldin told the Observer this summer that after Aidan died, he received an early-morning call from a medical examiner, informing him about the boy's death. Instead of heading to the baby sitter's house in Lincolnton where Aidan was found unresponsive, Mauldin acknowledged that he went back to bed.
It's unclear exactly when a deputy actually went to the house to investigate. The sheriff's department has said a deputy responded within 24 hours of receiving word from the medical examiner. But Aidan's family members say no one investigated for several days.
"It's something we will discuss because we want to make sure we do all the things we should," Carpenter said Monday. "We will get our heads together."
Carpenter has a personal connection to Aidan's death: The boy's grandmother is Carpenter's cousin.
Mauldin has insisted he did nothing wrong in his response to the death report because the medical examiner indicated that, although the child had a enlarged rectum, he did not believe any crime had been committed.
A forensic pathologist reported that he found no signs of abuse and ruled that Aidan had died from SIDS, a mysterious natural cause of death that kills babies under age 1.
Still, Aidan's family has raised questions about the findings.
Medical examiners, they note, are supposed to classify deaths as SIDS cases only after a thorough investigation of the death scene helps rule out other causes. Sheriff's officials have acknowledged that possible evidence in the room where Aidan was found may have been lost or disturbed by the time an investigator arrived at the house.
Family members suspect Aidan might have suffocated. He was discovered face down in an adult bed where he had been sleeping, raising the possibility that he could have suffocated from sleeping in an unsafe position or from his bedding.
Former Lincoln County Sheriff Tim Daugherty, who lost his bid for re-election in a May primary, has refused to answer questions about the investigation of Aidan's death.
The case briefly surfaced as an issue this fall during Carpenter's campaign for sheriff against Democrat Terry Burgin, who defeated the incumbent sheriff.
Carpenter, a Republican, and Burgin both said the sheriff's office mishandled the investigation. Both promised that, if elected, they would instruct their deputies to immediately go to all baby death scenes - which sometimes aren't properly investigated in part because police want to spare grieving parents additional pain.

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