exposing the dark side of adoption
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September 26, 1992

Janice Haidet

Dayton Daily News


Hannah Carroll's mother says that just 10 minutes after she and her husband left home, the 6-year-old girl with Down syndrome managed to go through two doors, climb up to a shelf, get a bottle of bleach, unscrew the lid and pour it all over herself.

Then, despite red, raw second-degree burns on nearly half her body, Kathleen Carroll says Hannah seemed relatively normal until she collapsed Monday morning and died. In her first public statements since the death, Mrs. Carroll told the Dayton Daily News through her attorney of the chain of events that began about noon Sept. 18.

Hannah will be buried Sunday, but Greene County authorities say the questions about her death will remain. They're continuing their investigation into whether charges should be filed - and a grand jury could begin considering the case Friday, assistant county prosecutor Suzanne Schmidt said.

Among the questions she and others have is whether Hannah - who apparently operated at the skill level of a 9-month-old - could have gotten into the bleach by herself.

"We're not accepting at face value what has been said," Schmidt said. "They said the kid was acting normal, but based on the coroner's report and the pictures, it would be unlikely that the child could have been responding normally . . . and that gets us back to the issue of why they didn't get some kind of medical treatment for this child who so obviously needed it."

The Carrolls' attorney, John H. Rion of Dayton, relayed the Daily News' questions to Mrs. Carroll and then told what she had to say.

Mrs. Carroll said that about noon Sept. 18, she and her husband Timothy loaded Noah, 3; Chloe, 3 weeks; and Samuel, 4, into the family van and headed for Children's Medical Center in Dayton for blood tests on Noah.

At the family's home at 3315 Straley Road, 16-year-old James was in charge of Jofiah, 11; Isaiah, 10; Jose, 9; Molly, 3; and Hannah.

Except for James, all the Carroll's adopted children have mental or physical handicaps.

While James was in the back yard, he heard Hannah cry out, Mrs. Carroll said. He found her in the utility room with the bleach. He put her into the shower and phoned some family friends, who arrived within 45 minutes. The parents and the rest of the family arrived 30 minutes later. The parents put first-aid cream on Hannah's burns.

The next day, she said, the parents called their pediatrician, Craig Horn of Kettering. They couldn't reach him. "(Hannah) was eating and doing fine. . . . There was no indication there was anything other than an exterior burn. No coughing, no nothing," she said.

The family planned to take Hannah to Horn on Monday just to make sure she was all right. The only unusual signs she showed were flu-like symptoms - which Rion didn't want to specify - similar to those of two other siblings who were sick.

Court records say Mrs. Carroll noted Hannah had a low-grade fever on Sunday. Monday morning, Hannah asked for juice. She swallowed one mouthful. She dribbled and drooled on the second. Then she collapsed about 8:50 a.m.

Mrs. Carroll called 911. Cedarville medics arrived and found Hannah without a pulse and not breathing. Attempts to revive her at Greene Memorial Hospital failed.

Since then, the Carroll family has been featured prominently on television and in the newspapers. Their home has been searched, and police confiscated bleach and other cleaning products as evidence. Preliminary autopsy findings are back, but no cause of death has been determined.

Because she has Down syndrome and is mentally retarded, Hannah functioned at the level of a 9-month-old child, Rion said. Asked whether he knew if Hannah previously had demonstrated the motor skills necessary to get into the bleach, including screwing off the cap, Rion said he didn't know.

Asked whether it was possible that any of the other children could've gotten into the bleach, Rion said the only person who would know that would be James. The Carrolls aren't giving authorities permission to talk to him.

The preliminary autopsy report says Hannah suffered inflammation of both lungs, chemical burns on her face, chest, abdomen, arms, thighs, back, buttocks and external genitalia, as well as on her left eye and in her throat.

Greene County Coroner's Chief Investigator William McCarthy said the pneumonitis, a pneumonia-like swelling of the lungs, is probably what caused her death.

1992 Sep 26