UPDATE: Mother charged with murder in Elizabethton child's creek death

Johnson City Press • Updated Nov 8, 2017 at 10:15 PM

ELIZABETHTON — A woman whose 3-year-old son drowned in Buffalo Creek at Meadowbrook Trailer Park in May has been indicted by a Carter County grand jury on a murder charge.

Tabitha Michelle Sword, 35, was arrested Tuesday evening on a charge of first-degree murder.

“Her actions were those of aggravated child neglect, but by statute, the death was first-degree murder,” said Capt. Shane Darling, commander of the Criminal Investigations Division of the Elizabethton Police Department.

Darling said Tennessee’s criminal statutes on first-degree murder, TCA-13-202, specified that first-degree murder includes the “killing of another committed in the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate … aggravated child neglect.”

The incident began at 10 a.m. on May 27 with a call about a missing 3-year-old. Officer Dustin Johnson was the first officer on the scene and spoke with Sword. He quickly broadcast a description of the boy to other officers responding.

Johnson said Sword told him that about 5 to 6 minutes before calling 911 she went to the bathroom in the back bedroom. She told him that before going to the bathroom, she had seen her child sleeping in his bed. She said she locked the screen door and shut the front door. She said she also pushed the edge of the couch over in front of the door so her boy could not open the door. She said she then went to the bathroom for abut 2 to 4 minutes.

Johnson reported that Sword told him that when she left the bathroom she found the couch had been pushed back and the front door was open. She looked for her child inside the residence, but he was not there. She searched outside, but did not find him, so she called 911.

The responding officers searched Meadowbrook Trailer Park and surrounding areas, but the child was not found. The search quickly escalated to include other officers of the Elizabethton Police Department, the Carter County Sheriff’s Department, the Carter County Rescue Squad search teams, Wings Air Rescue and civilian searchers.

Officer Justin Pearce of the Elizabethton Police Department began searching Buffalo Creek. He heard a man yelling that he had found the boy. Pearce then went over to the man and found the child floating face down in the middle of Buffalo Creek. Pearce recovered the body and brought him to the creek bank at 12:39 p.m.

Johnson reported that he talked with one of Sword’s neighbors, who told him that a month earlier the boy had been seen playing by the creek by himself. The neighbor said he got the boy and walked over to his residence. The neighbor said he knocked several times, but no one came to the door. The neighbor said he then opened the door and let the boy inside.

A short time later, he said he once again saw the boy playing outside by himself. He took him back to the residence, and this time Sword came to the door and said she had been asleep.

The case was presented to the grand jury on Nov. 1.

Darling said Sword remains in Carter County Jail, with bond set at $100,000. She is scheduled to appear before Criminal Court Judge Stacy Street on Nov. 20.


Reported earlier:

ELIZABETHTON — A mother was arrested Tuesday on a charge resulting from the death of her 3-year-old son earlier this year.

Carter County Sheriff”s Office deputies arrested Tabatha Michelle Sword on a warrant charging her with first-degree murder.

In a news release, the Elizabethton Police Department said the arrest resulted from that department’s investigation into the child’s death in May. The facts and circumstances of the case were presented to a Carter County Grand Jury, which returned a true bill charging Sword.

Sword, 123 Reeser Road, No. 13, was held in the Carter County Jail on $100,000 bond while waiting for a court hearing date.

The 3-year-old boy was found dead about 12:30 p.m. May 27 in Buffalo Creek following a search by police, who had received a report from Sword that her son, Logan, had gone missing from her home.

Sword told police she and her son were home alone and that she discovered the door to her home open after spending several minutes in the bathroom. She searched the residence for her son and then called 911.

Elizabethton officers searched the area with assistance from the Carter County Sheriff’s Department, the Carter County Rescue Squad and volunteers from the neighborhood. The boy’s body was found about 300 yards downstream from the residence in the creek.

Eds. note: The Elizabethton Police Department original listed Sword’s charge as aggravated child neglect. She was actually charged with first-degree murder. This article has been corrected to reflect the actual charge.

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