Flint girl's adoptive mother charged with murder

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Date: 2009-04-24
Source: freep.com

Woman is a good parent, cousin says

BEN SCHMITT
FREE PRESS

Genesee County prosecutors today charged the adoptive mother of a quadriplegic 9-year-old girl with second-degree murder, and five other charges, alleging neglect and malnourishment caused the death of the girl who was found dead this week in a storage unit.
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Lorrie Thomas, 39, of Flint is charged in connection with the death of her adopted daughter and niece, Shylae Thomas.

Thomas is also charged with two counts of welfare fraud, child abuse, tampering with evidence and a misdemeanor count of removing a dead body without the permission of the medical examiner.

“This is obviously a very, very sad and tragic case that we’ve been dealing with,” said Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, who said the case is among the worst he’s ever seen.

Leyton said an autopsy showed that Shylae suffered from malnutrition, and weighed 33 pounds at the time of her death. In August, records indicate the girl weighed 61 pounds, Leyton said.

Thomas will be arraigned this afternoon at Flint’s 68th District Court. She also faces child abuse, welfare fraud and tampering with evidence charges.

On April 13, Thomas cashed a $2,884 monthly adoption subsidy check to cover Shylae’s death, Leyton said. Leyton said he believes Shylae has been dead for about six weeks.

“The child suffered, there’s no question about it,” Leyton said. “Nobody should have to go through this, and it’s heartwrenching to every one of us.”

Leyton said the girl was supposed to be fed through a tube that was attached to her stomach, likening it to an IV.

Earlier today, a cousin of Lorrie Thomas defended the woman.

“My cousin was a good parent,” said Josette Thomas of Flint, when asked about Lorrie Thomas. The Free Press interviewed Josette over the phone today.

Flint Police found Shylae’s body was early Wednesday morning stuffed in a garbage bag inside a plastic container in Unit 103 of the Stor & Lock facility just north of Flint.

Josette Thomas clarified Shylae’s spelling, saying investigators and some court documents misspelled the name as Shylea.

Josette Thomas said her cousin, Lorrie, “did the best she could with eight children.”

“She made a vital mistake, but she is not a monster, no way, no how,” said Josette Thomas, who is also 39. “I don’t know what happened but I know Lorrie loved those children.”

Donna Thomas, who said she is Shylae’s cousin, told the Free Press that the girl, who was a quadriplegic because of a crib injury, could not talk.

“She could make sounds,” Donna Thomas said. “She could laugh. She knew when you were around her.”

Donna and Josette Thomas said they hadn’t seen Shylae in about a year.

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