Vermont toddler in state’s custody found unconscious in pool, dies

EAST MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont toddler in the custody of the state Department for Children and Families was found unconscious in a pool and later died, police said Thursday.

Police said the child was found at his foster family’s East Montpelier home late Wednesday morning. First responders stabilized 2½-year-old Alexander James Lowell-Henry before taking him to a hospital. Authorities say the child died Wednesday night as he was receiving medical care.

An investigation by state police and DCF is ongoing. Ken Schatz, department commissioner, said in any incident of serious child injury or fatality, police and the agency work together to assess for the possibility of child abuse or neglect. He declined to give any further information on this case.

“Any incident of a child fatality is unique, and is thoroughly reviewed,” Schatz said.

The agency tasked with protecting abused and neglected children has increased its staff by 25 percent and has established uniform protocols to determine dangers and risks of family situations following two high-profile cases.

In 2014, the death of 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon, of Poultney, from blunt force trauma to the head, sparked outrage in the state. Her stepfather, Dennis Duby Jr., pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 13 years in jail. Dezirae’s family was under the department’s supervision, and her father won a $500,000 settlement from the state after he sued them for failing to protect the girl.

Two months after the girl’s death, 15-month-old Peighton Geraw, of Winooski, died. Her mother, Nytosha LaForce, was sentenced to at least six years in jail.

In February 2016, a 3-year-old boy wandered away from his day care in Waterbury into a brook and drowned. A prosecutor declined to file criminal charges, saying none of the actions or inactions of the adults involved showed recklessness or negligence.

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