Coroner: Autopsy contradicts foster parents’ account of baby’s death

Six-week-old Macey Wilson died last month in a Sacramento foster-care home. Relatives are seeking answers.
Six-week-old Macey Wilson died last month in a Sacramento foster-care home. Relatives are seeking answers. Sacramento

The results of an autopsy of 1-month-old Macey Wilson contradict her foster parents’ account of the baby’s death in May, the Sacramento County Coroner said.

Before the autopsy was completed, the girl’s foster parents said she was found unresponsive in a toddler car seat at the foster home in the 5200 block of Crystal Hill Way in the Valley Hi area of Sacramento, Coroner Kimberly Gin said.

The baby’s lividity pattern, where her blood settled after death, was on the front of her body, the autopsy found. That pattern indicates she died lying down, Gin said.

“A person that dies while sitting, especially in something like a car seat, shouldn’t have much or any anterior (frontal) lividity,” Gin said.

The inconsistency between what coroners found and what the foster parents said led Gin to ask the Sacramento Police Department to investigate the case, she said.

Sgt. Bryce Heinlein, a department spokesman, said the major crimes unit is investigating the case. He said he could not provide any further details because the case is pending.

Sacramento County Child Protective Services, which placed Macey in foster care, removed foster children from the home “as soon as we learned about Macey’s death, again out of an abundance of caution,” said agency spokeswoman Samantha Mott.

Because the foster home is managed by a third-party agency, the investigation was done by the state’s Community Care Licensing office, not CPS, Mott said. The state would not provide details about its investigation to CPS, she said.

Michael Weston, a spokesman at the state Department of Social Services, said confidentiality laws prevent the agency from commenting about its investigation.

The Coroner’s Office has ruled Macey’s cause of death as inconclusive, saying there were no obvious physical signs to explain it.

The report suggests that the foster parents moved Macey from where she died into the toddler seat, said Tracy Rhodd, the baby’s paternal grandmother.

“Why did they move her?” she said. “They lied about where they found her.”

She said the Coroner’s Office told her that the foster parents had not checked on Macey for 12 hours when they found her dead. She said that’s too long to leave a baby unobserved, and might explain why Macey died.

Sacramento police have said Macey was already dead when they arrived at the foster home.

CPS records provided by Rhodd earlier this year show she was given custody of Macey four days after the girl’s March 21 birth. The records cite problems with Macey’s parents, including the mother’s mental health and homelessness, as reasons for giving the grandmother custody.

CPS completed a safety plan for Macey that said she would be released from the hospital into the custody of Rhodd “until parents are able to address the concerns of the department.”

After Macey had stayed with Rhodd for about a week, a CPS social worker said the child was being placed in foster care while CPS investigated Rhodd’s background, Rhodd said.

While CPS will not comment on that decision because of confidentiality laws, Rhodd believes the agency was concerned about a 2001 Sonoma County case in which Rhodd pleaded no contest to a charge of violating a restraining order.

She disputes the charge but said she didn’t fight it to avoid complicating her divorce proceedings.

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