Local News

No charges filed in Clinton toddler's drowning

Posted December 4, 2009 11:58 a.m. EST

— No criminal charges will be filed in the August drowning death of a 19-month-old girl, Sampson County District Attorney Dewey Hudson said Friday.

Ashley Marie Deetz dropped her daughter, Haley Nicole Jones, off at a friend's house on Boykin Bridge Road on Aug. 30, authorities said. The friend, Kathryn Highsmith, was looking after several children and noticed Haley had wandered off, authorities said.

Highsmith searched the house for Haley and found her floating in the above-ground pool beside her house, authorities said. She pulled her out but efforts to revive the child were unsuccessful.

Highsmith told investigators that a ladder was normally not by the pool and that it should have been down. Her brother told investigators that he stood the ladder up earlier in the day when he was mowing grass.

Hudson said that Highsmith's actions didn't rise to the level of reckless behavior needed to prosecute her on a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

"Clearly, Mrs. Highsmith, as the one responsible for watching Haley, had a duty to protect her, and she did not do so," Hudson said in a statement. "However, under the totality of the circumstances in this case, it does not appear that Mrs. Highsmith’s conduct rises to the level of gross and flagrant negligence evincing a reckless disregard of human life."