Toddler’s Death ruled “Undetermined Sudden Death”
By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The long-awaited autopsy report of 15-month-old Aubrey Kina-Marie Littlejohn has provided little answers and more questions. Released this week, the autopsy states the cause of death as “Undetermined Sudden Death”.
Littlejohn, an EBCI tribal member, was pronounced dead at Cherokee Indian Hospital on the morning of Jan. 10.
The report states, “Overall, the findings of the autopsy were nonspecific. There was no evidence of significant acute physical trauma or infection. There were no benzodiazephines, cocaine, ethanol, opiates/opioids, or organic bases detected in the decedent’s blood.”
According to the toxicology report, the only drugs present in her system were caffeine and Atropine which, according to the autopsy report, is used in resuscitation efforts and is also found in many cold medications.
While the autopsy was nonspecific about her death, there were questions about hypothermia as Littlejohn’s core temperature was documented the night of her death by Cherokee Indian Hospital officials as 84 degrees Fahrenheit. “The nonspecific findings of hypothermia are not present in this case; however, it is not possible to exclude death from hypothermia,” the report states.
The report stated that a temperature inside the trailer where Littlejohn resided was described by investigators as “subjectively cold by description but a temperature was not recorded within the trailer itself.”
More autopsy findings include: two dried abrasions around her nose related to her congestion, several small contusions on her head with “underlying scalp hemorrhage”, and a healed fracture of her left arm.
An examination of Littlejohn’s body revealed “no adhesions or abnormal collections of fluid present in any of the body cavities.”
The incidents leading up to Littlejohn’s tragic death are still under investigation and a local Department of Social Services has been under investigation for several months.
Swain County DSS offices were raided by SBI agents on the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 22 and computers and records were seized. Although Aubrey was an EBCI tribal member, the caregivers lived in Bryson City and were in the jurisdiction of Swain County DSS.
Allegations arose during the investigation of falsified reports. Swain County DSS Social Worker Craig Smith documented that he placed a phone call on Sept. 24, 2010 to Cherokee Indian Hospital and spoke with a doctor regarding a visit following a fall by Aubrey.
According to court papers, Swain County Detective Carolyn Posey and Daniel Cheatham, a private investigator hired by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to aid in the investigation, formally interviewed the doctor in Smith’s report who told them that she had never had a phone conversation with Smith and had never seen nor examined Aubrey Littlejohn.
The court papers state that the investigators approached Smith with evidence of the “non-existent telephone” call and he admitted to making it up.
Smith also related that “he had documented that false conversation because he was instructed to do so by his supervisor Social Worker Supervisor Candice Lassiter” who allegedly gave Smith a handwritten note on what to include in the narrative. He has been placed on leave as well.
As of press time, no charges have been filed in this case.