When police responded to a frantic 911 call from the mother of an infant who had stopped breathing, they were shocked by what they found at 208 Pilgrim Ave.
Trash was strewn knee-deep in places throughout the second-floor apartment. Food rotted in the warm refrigerator. There was no electricity in the home, but an extension cord snaked down from the third floor — to a fan and a laptop computer.
The tragic tale of baby Avianna has been disseminated exhaustively by the grieving but online-obsessed mother, Sarah Elliott, who has posted detailed updates on her MySpace page and other Web sites since the baby’s father accidentally rolled over on the 2-month-old infant and rendered her brain-dead.
“I CANT STOP CRYING WE HAD A LIL ACCIDENT WHERE DAVE FELL ASLEEP WHILE FEEDIN THE BABY AND I WENT TO CHECK ON HER N COULDNT FIND HER,” Ms. Elliot wrote June 11, the day after the accident. “I FLIPPED AND STARTING SCREAMIN AND THREW DAVE OFF THE BED N THERE SHE WAS LIMP N BLUE N NOT BREATHING SO I PICKED HER UP N CALLED 911.”
The accident occurred during last month’s heat wave, when the baby’s parents were in bed with the infant and their 2-year-old child was sleeping on a pile of clothes next to the bed, while a window fan in the room provided some relief.
Police say that the baby’s father, David Letourneau, exhausted from his factory job, unknowingly rolled over on the baby about 5:40 p.m. But a more detailed account was provided by Ms. Elliott, who was apparently posting on a “motherhood” Web site when her infant was crushed:
“IT ALL STARTED WHEN DAVE CAME HOME FROM WORK. I NEEDED 5 MINUTES 2 MYSELF TO PEE N CHECK ON HERE SO I GAVE THE BOTTLE TO DAVE AND MASON WAS GETTING TIRED SO HE WENT TO LAY DOWN TOO. I CAME ON HERE AND AFTER A FEW MINUTES OF COMPLETE SILENCE I GOT WORRIED AND WENT TO CHECK ON THEM. I GET IN THERE AND SEE DAVE N MASON BUT AVIE IS NO WHERE TO BE FOUND. SO I START SCREAMING AND THROW DAVE ON THE FLOOR THERE SHE IS PALE AND BLUE LIPS. SO I PICKED HER UP AND SHE WASNT BREATHIN, HANDED HER TO DAVE AND CALLED 911.”
Ms. Elliott also described the reaction of police:
“THATS WHEN THE COPS BUSTED IN THE HOUSE SCREAMIN AT US ONE PUSHED ME ON THE FLOOR. TELLING US THE HOUSE WAS UNLIVABLE N THEN THEY GRABBED MASON SAYING HE WAS LATHARGIC AND DEHYDRATED EVEN THO HE HAD ABOTTLE OF WATER EVER HALF HOUR N HE WAS SLEEPIN FOR GOD SAKES. THEN WE SPENT THE NEXT 6 HOURS AT THE STATION BEING QUESTIONED N TREATED LIKE (expletive).”
The day before the accident, another 911 call was made to police. This time, a caller reported that a man later identified as Mr. Letourneau was asleep in a Toyota in a parking lot at CVS on Grafton Street, while two young children screamed and cried in the back seat.
“There was no indication that drugs or alcohol was involved,” said Capt. Edward J. McGinn Jr. Of the parents, he said, “We didn’t find them to be overtly abusive. At minimum, there are misguided priorities here. Why have the computer running instead of the refrigerator? That’s appalling. I don’t want to vilify this woman, but something isn’t quite right. Why let your children live like this?”
The state Department of Social Services has taken custody of the children, and the Worcester Juvenile Court issued a ruling yesterday to discontinue life support for the infant. The child has been in an irreversible coma, according to a DSS spokeswoman.
When contacted by phone last week, Ms. Elliott said her lawyer told her not to speak with the media. But she apparently feels no such restrictions online, where she’s posted extensive updates and responded to those who offer support.
On her MySpace page, she posted a picture of her baby with a halo around her head and floating in clouds. She posted a picture of Mr. Letourneau feeding a bottle to Avianna, who is lying flat on her back in bed. Her posts are replete with graphics such as yellow “smiley faces” crying or wearing frowns. She provides links to newspaper stories and a plaintive song on YouTube called “How Could This Happen to Me?” Her mood, she notes, is “melancholy.”
By most accounts, the parents of this doomed little girl love their children and were perhaps unaware of the potential danger of sleeping with an infant. But the condition of the apartment and the mother’s fixation on the Internet raise troubling questions about their limitations — and whether more could have been done to avert the tragedy.
“There has to be a better safety net out there,” Capt. McGinn said. “How is it that these folks slipped through? They needed help. It seems like the mother may have been seeking help, but you don’t go looking on the Internet.”
Neil Kravetsky, the lawyer for the family, said that while Golubchuk’s fate wasn’t sealed by a final court ruling against the hospital, in essence, the World War II veteran won his case.
“Mr. Golubchuk won. No one took him off life support. He died when his time had come, not when a doctor succeeded in pulling him off. He went on to live another seven months after he was supposed to be at death’s door… Sam went to his maker when his maker was ready,” Kravetsky said.
Golubchuk’s daughter, Miriam Geller, said, “The final decision was God’s decision, not what the doctors wanted.”
Kravetsky, who spoke at the funeral and was also a pallbearer, added “Sam Golubchuk in his life was a fighter who fought for his country and for democracy… He believed that one of the most important things was the right to freedom and the freedom to choose. I believe that Sam Golubchuk fought for democracy in his life and he fought for democracy in his death.”
Kravetsky said that there “are hundreds of thousands of people who will remember the name Sam Golubchuk.”...........