Toddler's death ruled 'accidental' even as mother is charged with involuntary manslaughter

Relates to:
Date: 2015-01-22

By Heidi Fenton |

WYOMING, MI -- An 18-month-old girl found dead in her crib in March 2014 died of asphyxia from removing her trachea tube, according to a death certificate filed in Kent County.

The certificate classifies her death as accidental, even as police are charging the toddler's mother, Rebecca Cotes, with involuntary manslaughter.

Kent County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Chris Becker said the ruling Hannah Hoag suffered an accidental death does not preclude a charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Prosecutors, he said, are alleging gross negligence occurred with the death.

Hannah was found unresponsive in her crib the morning of March 24 and pronounced dead at 11:45 a.m.

In a probable cause affidavit, police allege Cotes, 26, placed Hannah in a crib without medical monitoring equipment — required because of the girl's special health needs. As she slept, Hannah removed her trachea tube, causing her own death, police say.

Kent County Medical Examiner Stephen Cohle on Thursday said he found no injuries on Hannah's body or anything else that may have contributed to her death.

Cohle said Hannah had a tumor in her airway that impeded her ability to breathe. She used a trachea tube to survive.

It is not clear how long the toddler had been alone in her crib at the time of her death. Cohle said he found no advanced decomposition to indicate she had been dead for any extended period of time.

Wyoming police Capt. Kim Koster said detectives and Child Protective Services workers conducted an extensive investigation into the death.

She said a "monitoring device was not hooked up that could have alerted the parent that the trach was removed."

"(Hannah's) medical needs required a lot of attention," Koster said.

"This is just a tragic situation," she said.

Koster said the toddler was discovered deceased by a male in the house.


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