Baby death reopening '92 case of half-sister Both infant girls were found in their cribs, not breathing

October 31, 1998|By TaNoah Morgan and Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | TaNoah Morgan and Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

The recent suspicious death of a battered 4-month-old Pasadena girl has prompted the medical examiner's office to re-examine the 1992 death of her infant half-sister.

When 9-month-old Alexandra Swauger of Anne Arundel County was found dead amid the blankets and stuffed animals of her crib early Aug. 21, 1992, the state medical examiner's office ruled she died of sudden infant death syndrome.

That ruling is being revisited after the Oct. 3 death of 4-month-old Alexis Swauger, who also was found in her crib not breathing. She was pronounced dead at North Arundel Hospital.

Both were daughters of Earl Swauger Jr. of the 1100 block of Annis Squam Harbour in Pasadena, who has been under investigation by Anne Arundel County police since late August for possible abuse of Alexis.

The girls had different mothers.

Christina Beachy, Alexandra's mother, could not be reached for comment. Her mother, Bonnie Faber, said she has fled her Severn home temporarily in fear that Swauger, her former live-in boyfriend, would retaliate if he knew she talked with reporters.

Alexis' mother, 23-year-old Melissa Moore, refused to comment yesterday on her daughter's death.

Swauger also declined to comment yesterday. The day after Alexis' death, he told The Sun, "I went up to check on her, and she wasn't breathing."

Police have so far filed no charges in Alexis' death. They are awaiting an official cause of death from the medical examiner's office.

Police spokeswoman Officer Carol Frye said they began

investigating the family after doctors at the University of Maryland Hospital called them in August about suspicious injuries to Alexis.

She was brought to the hospital because of intestinal problems, Frye said. Doctors found she had a ruptured intestine and broken ribs, possibly caused by a kick, punch or blow, police said.

Hospital officials would not comment on specifics but said Alexis was admitted to the hospital between July 31 and Aug. 12 and from Aug. 19 to Sept. 5.

Early last month, the Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services removed Alexis from her home as a result of the police investigation, Frye said.

Alexis' grandfather, James Moore, cared for her in his Glen Burnie home for 30 days before she was returned to her parents Oct. 2.

The next day, Swauger called 911 about 1: 30 p.m., saying Alexis had stopped breathing. Paramedics arrived at the house to find him performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Alexis. They continued with the CPR until arriving at North Arundel Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Dr. Joe Pestaner, a forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on Alexis, said it was "just routine procedure" to re-evaluate Alexandra's death. He said whenever two people in a family die and one of those deaths is suspicious, it is common to review the first case.

Dorothy Boyle, the county's deputy director of social services, said she could not comment publicly on the investigation involving Alexis.

She said that if charges were filed and the county director of social services and the state secretary of the Department of Human Resources agreed, the case could be discussed publicly.

Boyle said a child removed from homes that are judged dangerous is commonly placed with someone the family recommends, often a relative.

Boyle said 30 days after a child is removed, social workers must appear in court with enough evidence of abuse to justify permanently placing the child in the care of social services officials. Otherwise, the child must be returned to his or her family. Social workers then visit the family regularly.

In Alexis' case, social workers had no chance to check in on her before she died.

Faber, the grandmother of the child who died in 1992, said Swauger was stern with her daughter's three other children, punishing them for small offenses such as dropping a shirt on the floor.

She said that since Alexis died, she questions whether Alexandra -- a child who wailed chronically -- suffered only from colic and ear infections, as doctors told the family.

L "I don't recall them doing any extensive exams," Faber said.

According to a police account of what Swauger told them, Beachy found Alexandra cold and blue shortly after 7 a.m. Aug. 21, 1992, while the family lived in the 1600 block of Annapolis Road.

She screamed and Swauger came into the room, felt the baby's arm and rolled her over. He called his mother, who called the ambulance.

Pub Date: 10/31/98

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