FROM THE BLOGS
Baby Ava, May Your Spirit Glow Bright My Thoughts Exactly by Annette Kniola
Randi MacLeod met deputies with her lifeless child in her arms, according to an incident report in yesterday’s drowning death of a 15-month-old girl.
“The child’s facial area was a bluish/green color and the child was not responsive,” a deputy-penned account stated.
The report, released Wednesday, offers a small window into a death now being investigated by the Collier County Sheriff’s Office. The Medical Examiner’s Office will determine cause of death for Ava Grace Slaby, born Nov. 3, 2009. The Sheriff’s Office will determine criminal culpability, if any.
The incident report does not detail the cause of the drowning, but two family members of MacLeod offer a similar account of the death. Both Pam Slaby, the child’s paternal grandmother, and Rose MacLeod, the child’s maternal aunt, said Ava drowned after Randi MacLeod briefly left her alone in the home’s bathtub.
In separate interviews, the family members each said Randi MacLeod left her daughter while she ran to put food in her dog’s bowl, check on something in the microwave and grab a towel.
“It was an accident, that’s what happened,” Rose MacLeod said.
Slaby said she received the account from Randi MacLeod at the hospital; Rose MacLeod said she heard it from her mother.
According to the Sheriff’s Office report, Deputy Patti Villa arrived at MacLeod’s Golden Gate Estates home, at 4920 26th Ave. SE, at 8:59 a.m., 11 minutes after the call was dispatched and an estimated 16 to 19 minutes after the drowning occurred. MacLeod answered the door with the unresponsive child in her arms, Villa wrote. MacLeod had been performing CPR at the time deputies arrived, the Sheriff’s Office reported separately.
Villa took the child, laid her on a living room rug and felt for a pulse and breathing. She felt neither, she reported, and began performing chest compressions. Upon the arrival of a second deputy, Cpl. Grady Johnson, the two officers split CPR duties, with Villa continuing to give Ava air and Johnson performing compressions. Investigator Mike Stevenson arrived and checked the child’s foot for a pulse, according to the report.
By the time paramedics arrived, color had returned to Ava’s face, and she was warm, Villa wrote. The child was transported to a North Collier Hospital facility.
Homeowner Jody Lynn Hovland told deputies she had tried reaching Randi all morning, as an appliance repair man was scheduled to visit the home and fix the washer. MacLeod moved into the home the previous week, Hovland told deputies the young mother lived alone with Ava and a dog. MacLeod was to pay the $900 rent with unemployment benefits and Social Security income she was receiving for Ava.
Ava’s father, and MacLeod’s boyfriend, Christopher Slaby, 25, died in a rollover crash in his SUV in January. MacLeod was injured in the wreck, and a restrained Ava was uninjured.
Before the recent move, MacLeod lived with Pamela Slaby and her family in Golden Gate Estates. Reached by phone on Tuesday, the grandmother alleged MacLeod had substance abuse problems.
A Department of Children and Families spokeswoman said the agency had an active investigation into substance abuse issues at Ava’s household that dated to before MacLeod’s recent move. The specific allegations, including who was accused, remain confidential.
Hovland said on Tuesday that those issues related to Pamela Slaby and were the reason for MacLeod’s move. Slaby denied those claims.
Reached on Wednesday, MacLeod’s sister made the same assertions. Rose MacLeod, of North Carolina, said her sister didn’t have substance abuse problems but sought to leave alleged drug abuse in the Slaby home. Rose MacLeod said her sister suffered instead from the heartache of Christopher Slaby’s death.
The sister, who has a son the same age as Ava, planned to move down and live with Randi and Ava, she said.
“She was a little stressed out,” Rose MacLeod said. “She wasn’t ready to be on her own yet.”