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John Thompson

Elizabethton Bureau Chief
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Update: Authorities say Elizabethton infant had been exposed to meth, but trauma was cause of death; parents charged

January 22nd, 2014 3:48 pm by John Thompson

Update: Authorities say Elizabethton infant had been exposed to meth, but trauma was cause of death; parents charged

Jeffery McLaughlin and Stephanie Bowman


ELIZABETHTON — A joint investigation by the Elizabethton Police Department and the Tennessee  Department of Children's Services into the death of an 8-month-old boy in 2012 has resulted in attempted aggravated child abuse charges against parents Jeffrey McLaughlin, 26, and Stephanie Bowman, 22, both of Apartment G4, 1277 Bluefield Avenue.



The couple were indicted by a Carter County grand jury on Jan. 6, and the case will be heard in an upcoming session of Criminal Court. The indictment indicates the child had been exposed to methamphetamine.



Assistant District Attorney Dennis Brooks said the alleged exposure was not the cause of the child's death. Brooks said the autopsy showed the child had sustained blunt trauma to the head.



Capt. Joy Markland, chief of the Criminal Investigations Division of the Elizabethton Police Department, said an extensive investigation was conducted for more than a year.



Brooks said part of the investigation relied on lab results from the baby. It was from such a lab test that traces of methamphetamine were found in a hair follicle.



Brooks said there was no evidence the parents provided methamphetamine to the infant or that the child was exposed to the manufacturing process of methamphetamine. Brooks said the traces could have been the result of prenatal exposure.



For that reason, the charge was attempted aggravated child abuse. Brooks said a conviction could bring a sentence of 8-12 years.



The investigation began when Aiden Bowman had become unresponsive on Nov. 20, 2012. The Carter County Rescue Squad was called to the couple's apartment. The Elizabethton Police Department also responded.



Then-Chief of Police Matt Bailey and Sgt. Curtis Bullock were the first officers on the scene. Bailey carried the unresponsive child to the rescue squad members who had just arrived on the scene. The child was then rushed to Sycamore Shoals Hospital. The child died a short time later that day.



The parents told Bullock the child had fallen from their bed and struck his head on the floor four days earlier, on Nov. 16. The child was treated at Sycamore Shoals Hospital and did not appear to have any serious injury.



McLaughlin told investigators he returned home on Nov. 20 to find his child unresponsive in his swinging bed, located in the apartment's living room. He screamed for Bowman, who was in another room. They then called 911.



Markland said a joint investigation by the police and children's services began, examining the circumstances and conditions surrounding the death. She said the investigation uncovered evidence of methamphetamine usage by both McLaughlin and Bowman. Additional testing on the infant revealed evidence to support it had been exposed to methamphetamine.



Following the indictment this year, the couple were arrested at their apartment on Jan. 17 by Capt. Anthony Buck and Officer Douglas Combs. During the search of McLaughlin following his arrest, Combs reported finding a metal container with three pills identified as Suboxone. He also found a pill inside a metal flashlight. Combs then charged McLaughlin with simple possession/casual exchange.



McLaughlin appeared before Sessions Court Judge John Walton on Tuesday. Walton found McLaughlin guilty and fined him $850 and court costs on the simple possession charge. He was also placed on probation for a year.

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Initial report posted at 10:48 a.m.:

ELIZABETHTON — Police recently charged the parents of a dead 8-month-old child with attempted aggravated child abuse after tests revealed they had exposed the infant to methamphetamine, police said Wednesday in a news release.

Jeffery McLaughlin, 26, and Stephanie Bowman, 22, were arrested Friday following an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of the child on Nov. 20, 2012.

Police and Carter County Emergency Medical Services were called to the couple's home at 1277 Bluefield Avenue, Apt. G-4, because the infant was unresponsive.

The child later died, and police and the Department of Children's Services began an investigation into the circumstances and conditions surrounding the death. Investigators found evidence indicating meth use by both McLaughlin and Bowman. Additional testing performed on the deceased infant also revealed evidence to support that the infant had also been exposed to methamphetamine, police said.

The case was presented Thursday to the Carter County Grand Jury, which returned a true bill charging McLaughlin and Bowman with attempted aggravated child abuse. Both were held in the Carter County Jail and will appear before a judge at the next available Criminal Court date.

Keep visiting JohnsonCityPress.com and read Thursday's print edition for additional details on this developing story.

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