A judge on Thursday set $50,000 bond for the Sabine Parish woman charged with murder in the death of her toddler son, who wandered away from home and fell into a neighbor's pool and drowned.
Christina Rivers, 23, of Zwolle was indicted for second-degree murder on Monday in the June death of her 2-year-old son, Mason. The grand jury that returned the indictment concluded Rivers showed gross negligence in the parental supervision her son received.
Rivers had been held without bond. District Judge Stephen Beasley granted a defense motion to set bond.
State law allows a person to be charged with murder in cases where there are other offenses, including cruelty to juveniles, even when there is no specific intent to harm someone. A provision of cruelty to juveniles is criminal neglect, which is the accusation lodged against Rivers, Sabine District Attorney Don Burkett said earlier this week.
She faces mandatory life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.
Rivers' attorneys said the murder charge is overblown.
"While this is a tragic situation, it is not a second-degree murder case," defense co-counsel Dhu Thompson said after Thursday's hearing. "She is devastated by the loss of her child, as is the entire family."
As part of the bail hearing, Burkett disclosed results of blood drawn on Rivers on the day of Mason's death. Tests indicated she had 320 ng/ml of methamphetamine and 100 ng/ml of amphetamines in her system. The amounts equate to taking methamphetamine over a period of time.
A toxicology report done after Mason's death revealed the child also had methamphetamine in his system. Investigators are still trying to determine if he was exposed to second-hand smoke or ingested the drug directly.
Rivers told authorities on the day of Mason's death that she had left him unattended for only a short period of time in the living room of their home while she took a shower. She said she came out of the bathroom to find him missing.
Investigators said a motorist reported seeing Mason around 10:20 a.m. unattended in the yard of a home that sits behind Christina Rivers' home and fronts a highway. The call about Mason's disappearance came after 2 p.m., authorities said. They said it appeared the toddler climbed onto the ledge of a Jacuzzi and fell in.
An autopsy indicated the child had been dead approximately one hour prior to being found.
Investigators have arrested a suspect in connection to the death of a woman whose body was found dumped in Whiskey Bay.
Detectives with the Iberville Parish Sheriff's Office confirm they have arrested Jonathan Allee, 28, and charged him with second-degree murder in connection to the case. Sheriff Brett Stassi said Allee is the victim's husband but they did not share a last name.
The body of Elizabeth Ferrell, 29, of Humble, Texas was discovered by a fisherman Saturday, April 23 at roughly 11 a.m. An autopsy was conducted and it was determined that she died from strangulation.
Sheriff Stassi said they believe her body was thrown from I-10 between the Ramah and Whiskey Bay exits the day before her body was discovered.
The sheriff said many people use those waterways to dump bodies, which is why Iberville Parish works many cases of bodies that are found.
After interviewing more than 20 witnesses in Humble, Texas, detectives believe Allee is the only suspect in the grisly crime.
"Through some electronic cameras, video and his own words, we have brought it down and have enough to arrest him for second degree murder," Stassi said.
It is believed Ferrell was killed before her body was thrown from I-10 into the waterway near the Whiskey Bay exit.
"I think the evidence proves that she was dead prior to hitting the water in Iberville Parish," said Stassi.
Detectives are still trying to piece together exactly what led up to the murder. Allee has no criminal history, but investigators believe the violence stemmed from the couple’s rocky marriage.
"There's always in these kind of relationships she was gone leave, she wasn't gone leave, then she's back you know. Whatever was the last straw to break the camel's back allowed her to be in his grasp and she was killed," Stassi said.
Allee was arrested at his home in Humble, Texas around 3 p.m. Friday by the Harris County Sheriff's Office, though he has yet to confess to the crime.
"He didn't confess to anything he just said some things that sometimes it's not what he said sometimes it's what you don't say," Stassi added.
The Iberville Parish Sheriff's Office will work to get Allee extradited to Louisiana so he can face charges.
From KTBS 3 News:
NATCHITOCHES, La. -
A Natchitoches Parish jury deliberated for less than 12 minutes before finding a former local dentist not guilty of the crime of unauthorized participation in medical assistance programs.
Dr. David Reed’s defense attorneys, Dhu Thompson and Daryl Gold, argued to the jury that Reed was an “unfortunate victim of a vague, complicated regulatory scheme that led to an unnecessary prosecution by the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Division,” according to a news release.
Reed was previously deemed an excluded provider from the Medicaid program. He was subsequently recruited to work strictly as a private pay dentist at the Outpatient Medical Center in Natchitoches.
Despite this contractual arrangement, Reed was charged with violating the statute because he was employed by a facility that contracted with Medicaid. Thompson and Gold showed the complex nature of the regulatory statutes and how Reed never had any criminal intent to violate the law, the release states
Testimony from Outpatient Medical CEO John Winston and Lula Williams established that Reed did not treat Medicaid patients nor did he bill Medicaid for any services.
After the verdict, Thompson said that he will ask the legislature to consider fixing the statute to clarify what he considers to be “vague and overbroad provisions that could subject other healthcare providers in Louisiana to unnecessary criminal prosecutions.”
District Court Judge Lala B. Sylvester presided over the three-day trial.
In a recent non-parent custody case, obtained a judgment of custody for a grandparent seeking to remove his grandchild from an unsuitable home environment. The case involved multi – jurisdictions and extended litigation.
In a recent domestic case, sought and obtained sole custody, child support, spousal support, injunctions against abuse and exclusive use of the matrimonial household for a contested divorce case involving domestic abuse allegations and minor children.
In a recent divorce case, sought and successfully obtained a Judgement of Divorce based on adultery, thereby reducing the separation period and providing for an immediate divorce.
In State v Brian Horn, prosecuted and obtained a sentence of death against the defendant for the murder of 12- year old Justin Bloxom.
In State v Felton Dorsey, prosecuted and obtained a sentence of death against the defendant for the murder of fire captain Joe Prock.
In State v Michael Kevin Hailey, prosecuted and obtained a sentence of 87 years at hard labor for the stabbing of Jeremy Craig at a bar in Rodessa, Louisiana. The prosecution was referenced in the book Among Murderers and Madness.
In April of 2014, obtained a six figure jury verdict for an automobile collision case, wherein the victim received a foot fracture that resulted in surgery, loss of income and past medical bills.
In October of 2015, settled a complaint against an assisted living facility for violating a resident’s DNR Order, resulting in an undesired resuscitation and requiring the family members to make the decision to end their loved one’s life. Damages included past and future mental anguish.