Boy dies after mom fails to seek help

Arlington: Woman who lost custody for drug use said she was afraid to call 911

10:22 PM CDT on Thursday, July 12, 2007

By JEFF MOSIER / The Dallas Morning News

ARLINGTON, TX – An Arlington mother told police that she didn't seek medical help for her critically injured son because she was afraid she would get into trouble for taking the toddler from his legal guardian.
Ebony Thorne

Ebony Thorne, 24, told detectives that she held a popsicle on the boy's forehead and placed another in his mouth to stop his crying after he fell 8 feet from a stairwell Wednesday morning. The mother of four – who had lost custody of all her children because of her cocaine use – then returned to bed shortly after 5 a.m. despite signs that Joshua Thorne had a brain injury, police said.

When the boy's father arrived at the apartment about 11:30 a.m., Joshua was unresponsive – his head resting on a bloody pillow on the couch, according to police documents. The boy, who would have turned 2 years old this month, later was pronounced dead.

"It's a sad, unfortunate case," Arlington police spokeswoman Christy Gilfour said. "If steps were taken to protect this child, he might not be deceased."

Ms. Thorne was arrested Wednesday night and charged with injury to a child by omission. She was being held Thursday in the Arlington jail on $25,000 bail.

Ms. Gilfour said more charges are possible after an autopsy is completed by the Tarrant County medical examiner's office.
Police said Ms. Thorne – who wasn't allowed unsupervised visits with her children – took three of them from her mother's home on Friday. The two surviving children, a 3-year-old boy and a 10-month-old girl, were temporarily returned to Ms. Thorne's mother, Etrice Robbins.

However, state officials were working Thursday afternoon to remove those children from Ms. Robbins' home and place them in foster care.

"Our primary focus is making sure that the other two children are in a safe place," said Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services.

Ms. Gonzales said Ms. Robbins showed poor judgment by letting her daughter take the children in violation of a court order.
Ms. Robbins and Timothy Johnson, Joshua's father, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Police said Ms. Thorne's home was dirty and cluttered and that they found what appeared to be human waste smeared on the stairwell wall. They also found a marijuana cigarette in an ashtray under the couch on which Joshua was found, documents say.
Police also said Joshua's arm, chest and face had several small bite marks that his mother said were inflicted by his 3-year-old brother.

The oldest of Ms. Thorne's four children had been placed with the family of the child's father and was not at the east Arlington apartment.

Ms. Thorne told police that she had a headache Tuesday night, so she took two Tylenol PM pills after smoking some marijuana, according to police documents. She told detectives that she heard a loud "thump" early the next morning, followed by the sound of Joshua screaming.

The toddler was on the floor, bleeding from the nose and mouth, and his head was swelling, according to police documents.
Ms. Thorne told police that after she got Joshua to stop crying, she tried to stand him up, but he was unsteady and wanted to lie down.

She said she knew she should have called 911 but gave several reasons why she didn't: She was sleepy. Joshua was sleepy. She didn't have a phone. She would get in trouble if the police knew she took the children from her mother.

Ms. Thorne told detectives she thought the boy would be all right, so she went back to sleep and left her son on the couch.
Later, when Joshua's father found the boy unresponsive, Ms. Thorne unsuccessfully tried CPR, she told police. She then asked her mother to come over to the apartment.

Ms. Robbins called for an ambulance about 12:45 p.m., nearly eight hours after Joshua fell and more than an hour after he was found by his father, according to the police affidavit.