The cold case involving little Andrea Lynn Arlington has lit a fire under local law enforcement six years after her death.
Though the truth may never be known about whether she died from bottle propping or unavoidable choking, the fact that little was done to investigate her death has spurred a policy change in the way child death investigations will be handled.
District Attorney Rob Christian told the Hood County News on Monday that he and Sheriff Roger Deeds will direct the task force on crimes against children that was recently formed to investigate all “unattended” deaths of children, taking the cases to the grand jury if it is believed that negligence may have been involved.
“When you know that your work is going to be reviewed by 12 members of the public, it kind of lights a fire under you,” Christian said of the seriousness with which the task force will view such cases.
“Unattended” deaths will involve those that occur in a home or that are suspicious or unexplained. Child deaths that occur in a hospital setting, for instance, would not necessarily be investigated, Christian said.
The new policy was instigated in response to questions raised by the HCN about the death of three-month-old “Andi” Arlington on July 3, 2006.
Law enforcement officials assumed the baby’s death to be a case of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The investigator closed the case before the autopsy report was received. He also did not interview extended family members, which is considered an important part of a SIDS investigation.
Some family members claim there was evidence that baby Andi died because of a propped bottle and that her mother, Alicia Lindaas Alexander, had been confronted about the dangerous practice.
Lindaas Alexander denies having propped the baby’s bottle the night she choked to death, but admitted in sworn testimony to having propped the bottle on prior occasions.
The autopsy report did not state SIDS as the cause of death, but rather “choking due to aspiration of gastric content.”
It is not illegal to prop a baby’s bottle, and seldom have charges of negligence or child endangerment been filed when a baby chokes to death because of it.
However, under the new policy, any future incidents in which negligence may have been a factor will go before the grand jury.
“Now, would that lead to an arrest, or prosecution? I can’t really say that. It depends on the facts of each individual case,” Christian said.
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