The death of an infant who reportedly fell and hit her head in Morton 17 years ago raised questions of child abuse at the time, but a Tazewell County sheriff's detective said he believed the injury was accidental, a 1976 police report shows.
The report, one of several obtained Friday from Peoria County Coroner Herb Buzbee's records, says the parents of Danielle Christine Neal told the detective they never hurt their child.
A Morton resident who was hosting the Neals in his home backed their statements, saying that he never saw either parent strike Danielle, and that the Neal family "showed every sign of loving each other very much," a 1976 report said.
Victoria and Glenn Neal also said they didn't know how their 1-year-old daughter -- a Korean child adopted in April 1976 and who died in September 1976 -- had sustained earlier injuries that were detected in an autopsy, reports said.
The autopsy showed she had suffered a broken collarbone and broken legs and arms. The healed fractures were estimated as three to four months old. After the autopsy, Deputy Peoria County Coroner Thomas Flanagan asked the Tazewell County Sheriff's Department to investigate the death because it might involve child abuse, a 1976 sheriff's department report said.
Tazewell County authorities exhumed the remains of Danielle Neal from Roberts Cemetery in Morton last week. They conducted an autopsy and reburied the remains.
Authorities have remained tight-lipped about the investigation, and they have declined to comment on whether child abuse is suspected.
However, reports dating back 17 years provide some detail into the Sept. 2, 1976, death of Danielle Neal.
The child's mother, Victoria Neal, called for an ambulance to be sent to 110 Ossami Lake Court on Aug. 30, 1976, because her daughter had stopped breathing, a Morton police report said.
Victoria Neal later told a sheriff's detective that she had been preparing to take a bath, and Danielle was in the bathroom with her.
"Victoria had her back towards Danielle when she heard Danielle fall to the floor," a sheriff's department report said. "Victoria saw that Danielle was not breathing properly, and when Victoria tried to help Danielle breathe, Victoria got blood on her fingers."
The child's mother then phoned for help, and she accompanied Danielle to Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria.
Glenn Neal, Danielle's father, told authorities he was out playing golf when the accident occurred. He said that, during the four months the Neals had the child, they never saw her fall badly or get injured in any way.
Danielle was punished on "a very few occasions" with a "light pat" on her buttocks, Neal told police. Usually, a certain tone of voice was enough to correct her, he said.
Victoria and Glenn Neal, former Morton residents who had moved to Toledo, Ohio, were staying with their baby at the home of the Dale Boyd family on Ossami Lake Court, which then was in rural Morton.