Local News

Advocates Call for Standardized Probes of Child Abuse Deaths

Posted April 13, 2005 6:40 a.m. EDT

— Child welfare advocates want a more uniform system for reviewing suspected child-abuse deaths and stricter punishments in the criminal cases that follow.

A study by the North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute of 23 child abuse homicides in 2003 found that a third of the 24 suspects received no active prison time. Two received 40-year sentences and two were sentenced to life in prison, while the rest got terms of two years to 25 years.

In 1999, Renee Moeller lost her son, Adam, because of a poor decision made by his stepfather.

"One night he decided to fix my 2-year-old son a mixed drink of Captain Morgan's Rum and Mountain Dew," Moeller said. "My son's autopsy later showed that his blood-alcohol level was .10."

He pleaded guilty to involuntarily manslaughter.

"For that they gave him two years and three months," Moeller said. "That was the total time served. Because he took Adam's life, he should have spent life."

Lisa Mayhew of the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner says her office plans to start a pilot project aimed at creating a standard protocol for hospitals, police and others who deal with suspected child abuse deaths. Such a protocol could result in more uniform collection of the information prosecutors need to obtain convictions, she said.