Autopsy awaited on scalded girl, 3
Grandmother says death an accident
The cause of death of a North Toledo toddler with cerebral palsy who suffered head-to-toe burns remained unclear yesterday as officials await autopsy results, police said.
Shaniya Sullivan, 3, died late Tuesday at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center. Her death is being investigated as suspicious pending the results of an autopsy, expected to be released today, Toledo police Sgt. Phil Toney said.
Initial reports from rescue personnel said the burns were consistent with those caused by scalding water. No one was charged in the death yesterday.
"A lot is going to depend on the coroner's report," Capt. Ray Carroll said.
The girl's grandmother, Cecelia Streeter, said the death was the result of an accident that occurred as Shaniya's 11-year-old sister left the child alone in the bathtub. She said an uncle was in another room watching television.
"Nobody did this to my baby. It was an accident," Ms. Streeter said, sobbing. "They put the blame on my daughter; they're wrong."
Shaniya had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and was unable to walk, Ms. Streeter said. A neighbor said the girl would "scoot" when she played outside with her siblings.
Shaniya was "always smiling at everyone," her grandmother said.
Rescue crews were called to 2819 F St. about 8:35 p.m. to check the safety of a child and found the girl on the floor in cardiorespiratory arrest.
Ms. Streeter said the children were taught how "to help each other, to take care of each other."
The older children left the room to get a towel, leaving Shaniya in the bathtub that was filling with bubbles and lukewarm water. Shaniya then turned on the hot water, apparently lost her balance, hit her head, and went under the water, Ms. Streeter said.
Nobody heard any screams or cries, she added.
The older children discovered the unresponsive girl and ran screaming out of the house in opposite directions, witnesses said.
A neighbor across the street, Teresa Ratliff, 29, said she went in and found Shaniya in the bathtub. The water was cold by the time she got there, she said. "I saw her floating in a tub full of water. I grabbed her and took her," Ms. Ratliff said.
The scene became chaotic and emotional, and at least two of Shaniya's family members were arrested after being accused of assaulting a police officer who was trying get the girl into an ambulance. Robert M. Johnson, 16, who Ms. Streeter identified as her grandson, and Donald Benton, 35, were taken into custody.
Five of Shaniya's six siblings, ages 1 to 16, were taken into protective custody yesterday by Lucas County Children Services, Executive Director Dean Sparks said. The children will remain with relatives temporarily until a juvenile court judge determines whether they may be returned to their mother's custody, Mr. Sparks said. The mother is free to contact and visit them.
"We have had contact with this family in the past, but not for a couple of years, and certainly not for anything like this," Mr. Sparks said, adding that placement in foster care "is our last resort in any situation."
Shaniya's father, Stephen Sims, sat on the front porch of Ms. Streeter's home on St. John Avenue, his eyes red and wet, with a cigarette hanging from his fingers. He said little, but expressed regret Shaniya's mother wasn't with her when the child was pronounced dead. "I can't believe they didn't let her get in that ambulance. She should have been in that ambulance with her baby," Mr. Sims said.