Coroner rules girl’s death a homicide

Relates to:
Date: 2009-07-23
Source: tribtoday.com

By DARCIE LORENO
Tribune Chronicle

By DARCIE LORENO Tribune Chronicle

WARREN - The Trumbull County coroner ruled the April death of a 21-month-old girl who had been living in foster care as a homicide. He still is not releasing how the toddler died.

Coroner Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk declined on Wednesday to release many details in the death of Tiffany Sue Banks-Cross because the case remains under investigation. No suspects were named.

The baby's grandmother, Loretta Banks, said it was a ruling she has expected since she said she saw her granddaughter, who had been living in foster care, looking ''dirty and bruised'' at her funeral in April.

''I collapsed when I heard,'' Banks said. ''It still really hasn't hit me.''

Tiffany, who would have turned 2 on June 27, died April 2 at Forum Health Trumbull Memorial Hospital. According to a call record at the Trumbull County 911 Center, a call reporting a 1 1/2-year-old child not breathing was made just before noon from an apartment at 663 Center Street West in Champion.

Germaniuk said the girl did not have any vital signs when she reached the hospital.

Trumbull County Children Services was contacted that day and is investigating along with the Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office. Champion's acting chief, Lt. Chris Redick, did not return calls for comment on the township's involvement Wednesday.

Loretta Banks said her daughter, Felicia, 19, gave birth to Tiffany on June 27, 2007, but never brought her home. Rather, Children Services took custody of the baby.

The Bankses said said they had problems with bills, rent and with a handful of deaths in the family at the time, and CSB declared Felicia unfit. She has two other children, Linda, 4, and Tara, five months. She has lost custody of both.

The women said Tiffany was placed with foster parents but that they visited her weekly until Felicia formally lost custody in November around the time of their last visit. They have a photo album full of pictures of them and the girl.

''She seemed as healthy as can be,'' Loretta said. "We would take McDonald's to her there. She liked biscuits and gravy. She just loved to play.''

They were notified of Tiffany's death on April 3, and attended her funeral. The toddler had bruises on her body and marks on her face and head, they said.

Ova Hall, Tiffany's fraternal grandmother, said she saw the same.

''We went to the funeral and were never so stressed out as we were on that day,'' she said. ''We knew it wasn't normal. I can't figure out how someone could do this to a baby.''

Since the girl's death, Loretta and Felicia said they've been calling the coroner's office twice a week to come to some kind of determination as to what happened.

Tiffany's father, Tommy Cross, who also regularly visited Tiffany, did not want to comment Wednesday. But Hall said it has been a long road.

''It was driving us crazy,'' Hall said. ''For a long time they wouldn't tell us what was going on. It was really upsetting.''

While they didn't know for sure what Tiffany had died from, Loretta said she wasn't surprised to hear Wednesday's ruling.

''I hope they have a lifetime in prison,'' Loretta said of who may have killed her granddaughter.

dloreno@tribtoday.com

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