New Castle mother wants charges filed against baby sitter in daughter’s death
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
It remains uncertain when, if ever, criminal charges will be filed in the case of a six-year-old girl who died nearly a year ago, apparently of complications from an asthma attack, while in the care of a baby sitter.
Since the Nov. 25, 2009 death of McKenzie Webster-Brown of New Castle, at the home of Eryn Thistle, 27, of Rifle, police and others have worked to understand the situation, and determine whether charges should be filed against Thistle.
But the child’s mother, 29-year-old Faith Webster, expressed her hope bluntly this week in a talk with the Post Independent: “I want her to go to prison. I at least want her to take responsibility for what she did to a child.”
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson said recently that he is awaiting a report by a forensic-medicine specialist before he makes a decision in the case.
“We are nearing the end of that investigation,” Beeson told the Post Independent in late September, adding that he believes his expert has reached conclusions about the case and will share them in a letter to Beeson “in the very near future.”
Efforts to reach Beeson on Wednesday to see if the letter had been received, were not successful.
McKenzie’s death came at the end of a two-day sequence of events that began on Nov. 23, when Thistle offered to baby-sit for McKenzie, then 6, and her sister, Shaelyn, then 9.
Webster had been worrying about what to do with the kids because her boyfriend was to undergo knee surgery on Nov. 24 and Webster wanted to be at the hospital.
Now, nearly a year later, Webster said she felt apprehensive about leaving the kids with Thistle, as did her boyfriend, Cameron Cain, 34.
“I should never have left her there. I should have listened to that gut feeling that night,” she said, explaining that her daughters had earlier mentioned being given medications at Thistle’s home, without Webster’s knowledge or permission.
McKenzie suffered from a mild case of asthma, her mother said, and had her own Albuterol and other medications, but only had to take them occasionally.
It was while Webster and Cain were at the hospital, Webster said, that Thistle called Cain’s cell phone and made the terse statement, “I’m calling 9-1-1,” and hung up.
“That’s it, she hung up the phone, I looked at Cameron and my stomach fell to the floor,” Webster recalled.
Although McKenzie was revived for a brief time that night, she was pronounced brain dead the next morning and taken off life support at 7:35 a.m. on Nov. 25.
McKenzie, according to reports, had developed difficulty breathing the evening before and had collapsed at Thistle’s home. She was taken first to the Grand River Medical Center in Rifle and then to Children’s Hospital in Denver via Flight For Life.
According to subsequent police reports, the child had been given multiple doses, apparently adult doses intended for Thistle, of Albuterol, a common medication for asthma administered by means of a nebulizer. The reports also indicated she had been given Benadryl and other medications during the two days she was under Thistle’s care.
The medicines, according to the reports, were administered first to treat a runny nose, then allergies to Thistle’s cats, and finally a burgeoning asthma attack.
The cause of death was listed as “Albuterol toxicity, asthma and bronchopneumonia,” but Webster said grimly this week, “It was the Albuterol that killed her.”
Police reports and those of social workers involved in the case, provided to the Post Independent by Webster, shed little light on the matter.
At one point early in the case, according to the confidential reports, child welfare officials reached a conclusion that allegations of “third-party neglect,” “medical neglect” and “supervision inconsistent with a child’s need” were warranted against Thistle.
But the lack of action by the DA has frustrated Webster, and her treatment by people she thought were friends has added to her stress.
“People treat you different after you’ve lost a child,” she said, “like it’s a disease.”
She acknowledged that she had been a hard partier in her younger days, and noted that McKenzie’s father, Jeremiah Brown, is in prison after a well-publicized local criminal career.
But the kids grew up “happy kids” and “well adjusted,” she said, adding with pride that Shaelyn, now 10, works in her grandmother’s rock shop in Glenwood Springs.
She said she believes the stress of the unresolved case has contributed to her recent development of a serious thyroid condition, and it definitely has pushed her to a decision to move to Bozeman, Montana in the near future with her boyfriend.
“We’ve got to get out of here,” she said. “It’s just been too much.”
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