Dayton Daily News

Officials took kids after one died, but genetic defect — not abuse — may have killed him

By Ben Sutherly

Dayton Daily News

GREENVILLE | The Darke County prosecutor Tuesday said he is closing the homicide investigation into the death of 5-year-old Daniel Crow Jr. because a rare genetic disease may be the cause of the boy's death, not abuse.

Prosecutor Richard Howell said Daniel's parents "deserve some exoneration. It shouldn't be held over their heads. I can't prove he was even abused, let alone who did it."

The closing of the case, however, raises new questions about the fate of two of Daniel's siblings, who were put up for adoption because of suspected abuse of their brother.

Upon hearing from a reporter Tuesday night that the homicide investigation was closed, the children's mother, Tammy Fourman, 29, of Union City, Ind., said she would seek to regain custody of the two children.

"We didn't give our kids away," she said. "Do they think about how sad it is when they took our kids from us?"

Fourman said she last saw one of the children in June 2000, the other in the fall of 2001.

Rebecca James, administrator of Darke County Children Services, would not comment Tuesday on the specifics of the case. She said, however, officials were trying to determine what the revelations about Daniel's death might mean for his two siblings, who have since been adopted.

"That is a question we are all asking," James said. "All this information drastically impacts the lives of many people."

James said generally when a family adopts a child, the child is theirs for good. "This is certainly a case that has caused many sleepless nights," James said.

The case began in March 1998, when Fourman and Daniel Crow Sr., 32, then living in Darke County, took 2-month-old Daniel to Wayne Hospital in Greenville for seizures. Doctors discovered the boy had a severe head injury and 15 broken bones. They suspected Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Children Services got a court order and placed Daniel in protective custody. Soon after, Children Services got another order that removed his sister, now 9, from the home. Fourman gave birth in January 2000 to another boy, who is now 4 and has a different biological father. Immediately after the boy was born, Children Services assumed custody of the infant.

According to court documents, Children Services took custody of Daniel because he was an abused child, and his sister and the infant because they were in danger of being abused.

Fourman and Crow unsuccessfully sought to regain custody of the children through the courts through 2001.

Fourman, then pregnant by another man, moved to Indiana that year, fearing Children Services would also take custody of that child, who is now 3. She later gave birth to a second son by Daniel Crow Sr., Logan Dale Crow.

Daniel spent more than five years in a vegetative state and died Dec. 29, 2003. The death was initially ruled a homicide.

In June, however, the manner of Daniel's death was changed to "undetermined" after tests confirmed he had the same rare genetic disease that killed his 6-month-old brother.

Logan Crow died April 30 in Indianapolis of Menkes Disease, which stems from a defective gene that regulates the metabolism of copper.

The disease primarily affects male infants, with copper accumulating at below-normal levels in the liver and brain, but at abnormally high levels in the kidneys and intestinal lining. Symptoms may include seizures, low body temperature and osteoporosis that can cause fractures. Most children with the disease die before age 10.

Howell said he plans to send Children Services a letter this week to formally close the homicide investigation. He said the case could be reopened, but likely won't unless evidence surfaces that incriminates a specific abuser.

"I think it should have been closed a long time ago," Fourman said.

Political wrangling brought Daniel's case into the public eye in October 1998, when Common Pleas Judge Lee Bixler ordered then county Prosecutor Jonathan Hein to investigate. The order came just weeks before Hein unseated Bixler in the November election.

A special grand jury reviewed evidence of possible abuse in early 1999, but did not hand up an indictment.

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