Spring Hill mother charged with murder in child's death
20-month-old girl was adopted from China eight months earlier
By SUE McCLURE
SPRING HILL -- A Spring Hill mother was indicted by the Williamson County grand jury yesterday on charges of felony murder in the death of her 20-month-old daughter, whom she and her husband adopted from China eight months ago.
Jennifer Alvey, 34, of 2037 N. Amber Drive, was indicted on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect and reckless homicide in the Oct. 24 death of Emma Alvey, according to Spring Hill police detective Sgt. Steve Cretin, lead investigator in the case.
"The mother held the baby and shook the baby back and forth, striking the baby's head on a coffee table in their living room,'' Cretin said.
The child had been adopted from China through Bethany Christian Services eight months ago, the officer said.
Alvey's husband, Phillip, was not at home when the incident occurred, Cretin said.
"There are no indications that the father was involved in any way, or had any idea that this would happen. And we've had no prior reports of any abuse at this home.''
There are no other children in the household, the detective added. And as of yesterday, Jennifer Alvey had not yet been arrested. Cretin said Alvey was to turn herself in to authorities today.
"After the incident, the mother took the baby to a neighbor's house and the neighbor called 911,'' Cretin said.
Charlie Fink, who lives directly across the street from the Alveys, said he was the neighbor who made that call. He and his wife, Nan, were shocked to learn yesterday that Jennifer Alvey had been indicted in the baby's death.
"After Emma died, Jennifer kind of stayed in the house all the time," Nan Fink said. "But she brought a pie, a pumpkin pie, over here not long ago and said she was under investigation and didn't know what would happen to her."
Joy turned to condolence
The child, who suffered a skull fracture, was taken Oct. 19 by ambulance to the emergency room of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Cretin said. She died Oct. 24.
A call from Vanderbilt started the investigation by the Spring Hill Police Department's criminal investigation unit. The state Department of Children's Services was also notified of the incident Oct. 20, according to department spokesman Rob Johnson.
Cretin said Jennifer Alvey had not cooperated in his investigation, adding that "she wouldn't divulge much after the incident.''
Last night, a man who answered the door at the Alvey house said he would have no comment.
The two-story brick house in the Campbell Station subdivision was decorated for the holidays, with a large wreath on the door and a tree inside.
Weeks earlier, missives from around the world had been posted on a discussion board at Bethany Christian Services' Web site, expressing condolences and offering prayers of support for the Alveys.
Earlier postings made under the username "palvey" detailed the long adoptive process and the Alveys' enthusiasm about adopting a child from abroad.
"We got our visas,'' a posting announced proudly on Dec. 23, 2004.
Other messages followed, outlining the couple's trip to China and their excitement over their new infant.
And then came the news of Emma's death.
"A dear friend of mine from Nashville, TN., called a little while ago and told me that little Emma, 20-months old, died this afternoon,'' posted Anita Hiehle of Clarksville. "She had experienced a fall and apparently had a brain 'bleed' that left her without any brain activity. We are all just heartbroken over this news.''
That posting elicited a flood of sympathy, including this message from "Kathy" in Menomonee Falls, Wis.: "My heart breaks for you and your family. My eyes still tear up every time I read about Emma. Our family is praying for you, that you find peace and comfort in knowing that Emma is safe in the Lord's arms."
Reached in Clarksville yesterday, Hiehle said she did not know the Alveys personally and was surprised to hear that the investigation had come to this point. She wouldn't comment further.
The outpouring of support and prayers brought this response on the Web site from the "palvey" username and signed from Phillip and Jennifer Alvey:
"We thank all of you for your prayers, thoughts and kind words. Emma was everything we dreamed of as our daughter.... We don't pretend to know the reason her time with us was cut so short, only that it must have happened to save her from something down the path of her life that would have caused her pain. ... Emma fell asleep for a nap in her Mommy's arms never to awake again and passed away at the hospital in her Daddy's arms. ... She was an angel on Earth and is now a beautiful angel in Heaven. Emma, your Daddy and Mommy love and miss you so much.''