Police: 7-year-old foster child dies after possible hanging in Margate home

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Date: 2009-04-17

Police unsure whether boy's death was accidental

Joel Marino and Rafael A. Olmeda
South Florida Sun Sentinel

MARGATE - An autopsy will be conducted today on a 7-year-old boy who was found possibly hanged in his foster family's home Thursday afternoon, police said today.

Few details were immediately available, and police have yet to determine whether the death was "accidental or intentional," said Margate Police spokesman Officer Vonley Williams.

The child's name has not been released, and investigators remain tight-lipped about the circumstances of his death.

The child was pronounced dead at Northwest Medical Center in Margate.

The boy is a foster child who has been living in the house for the past three weeks, Williams said. An investigator on Friday said the 7-year-old was not the only foster child living at the residence.

Paramedics were called to the home in the 6500 block of Northwest Ninth Street about 1:40 p.m. and found the boy was still breathing. The child was pronounced dead at the hospital an hour later.

Police have declined to release where the child was when he was found or who found him.

Police did not immediately say whether anyone was in the house or who dialed 911.

A woman who answered the door at the house Thursday evening said family members did not want to talk to the media.

"The foster parents are very devastated at this time, but they have no comment," said the woman, who did not identify herself.

Several neighbors who gathered near the foster family's well-kept lawn Thursday afternoon said the family moved into the neighborhood five years ago.

"I knew there were two kids there, but I didn't know they had a foster child," said Bryana Bernstein , 22, referring to the foster parents. "They mostly keep to themselves."

According to public records, the couple who own the house have been married for four years and have no criminal records.

Leslie Mann, spokeswoman for the Department of Children & Families' Fort Lauderdale office, said privacy concerns about juveniles prevented her from commenting on the case.

"It's a tragedy. It's always a tragedy when a child dies," she said. "We are deeply saddened about this situation."

The boy's case was handled by ChildNet, a nonprofit organization that provides child welfare services for DCF. Sasheika Eugent , spokeswoman for ChildNet, also said she could not discuss the case Thursday evening.

"At this time, we do not have a comment," Eugent said. "It is still under investigation."

Staff writer Robert Nolin contributed to this report.

Joel Marino can be reached at jmarino@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4552

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