The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

March 17, 2014

Initial autopsies of children show no sign of internal trauma

By Jessica Farrish
The Register-Herald

BECKLEY — The bodies of a 3-month-old boy and his 1-year-old sister who were discovered unresponsive inside their Hilltop home by their mother Tuesday morning showed no signs of internal trauma, strangulation or suffocation in the initial autopsies performed Wednesday by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Fayette County Sheriff Steve Kessler reported Wednesday.

Kessler said strangulation and suffocation have been “tentatively ruled out” as causes of death and that investigators are waiting for the medical examiner’s office to test the hair, blood and urine of the children in an effort to determine if they had ingested or been exposed to toxic substances that caused their deaths.

“A final determination of the cause and manner of death cannot be made until toxicology tests have been completed,” said Kessler. “Basically, the laboratory will be testing samples ... in an effort to determine if these infants ingested or were exposed to any toxic substances — drugs, poison or something of that nature — to cause their deaths.”

The toxicologist had agreed with Fayette detectives to expedite the testing process so police receive the tests as quickly as possible, officials reported.

Instead of the usual six months of waiting time, the results could be ready in a “few weeks,” according to Fayette County Sheriff’s Capt. Jim Sizemore.

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Sizemore said Tuesday that the two young victims and their 4-year-old brother lived with their mother and father in Lot No. 44 at Mountainair Mobile Home Park in Hilltop.

Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney Carl Harris declined to identify the family Wednesday, pending completion of official court documents relating to the children’s deaths.

The mother awoke around 9 a.m. and saw that her 3-month-old baby was unresponsive, according to Sizemore.

She sent her husband to the next door neighbor’s house to contact Fayette 911.

The mother then discovered that the 1-year-old girl was unresponsive, as well, Sizemore reported.

A call requesting help for the girl was placed from the neighbor’s house “moments after” the first call, he added.

When deputies arrived at the home, they tried to revive the children using CPR until Jan-Care and General ambulance crews arrived.

Paramedics transported the children to Plateau Medical Center in Oak Hill, where medical staff “made extensive efforts” to revive the children before pronouncing them dead, he said.

According to Sizemore, medical staff did not offer an approximate time of death for the children.

The deaths are currently being investigated by Fayette sheriff’s deputies and the State Medical Examiner’s office, Sizemore said.

Child Protective Services was contacted as a matter of protocol, and the victims’ 4-year-old brother was transported to PMC for evaluation.

He was found to be healthy, said Sizemore.

— E-mail: jfarrish@register-herald.com