Authorities in Virginia are investigating the unexpected death Friday of the baby born to a 13-year-old Annapolis girl whose marriage last summer to a 29-year-old man touched off a push to raise Maryland's legal marriage age.
Police in Richlands, Va., said Austin Lee Compton, age 5 months, was found dead in a bed in his grandmother's home near the Virginia-West Virginia border.
The cause of death is undetermined. Results of an autopsy are incomplete, but officials believe there was no foul play.
"It's more than likely crib death," said Richlands Investigator Danny G. Puckett. "There was no physical injury to that baby that the natural eye could see."
He said emergency workers called to the home of Nancy Akers at 1: 42 p.m. found the baby dead in a basement bedroom.
Puckett confirmed that the parents -- who professed their love last year as officials argued over whether Compton should be prosecuted for statutory rape -- were at home in Annapolis.
Family members declined to talk to a reporter yesterday.
The infant's parents are Phillip Wayne Compton Jr. and Tina Akers Compton, whose Anne Arundel County Circuit Court nuptials on Aug. 24 created a firestorm, after officials realized two state laws -- one civil and one criminal -- were at odds.
Civil law allowed the marriage: anyone under age 16 can be married with parental consent and certification of pregnancy. The bride's father consented; his daughter, a seventh-grader who was 8 months pregnant, and Compton, an unemployed roofer, had been dating.
But sexual relations with a girl under age 16 are grounds for a criminal charge of statutory rape, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The issue was catapulted into nationwide headlines about the "child bride," into supermarket tabloid stories and onto the television show "Extra!"
It became a local election issue in November, as incumbent Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee was criticized by an opponent, whom he eventually defeated, for not pressing charges against Phillip Compton.
Compton remains under investigation. County prosecutors said yesterday they are waiting for one piece of evidence before deciding whether to charge him.
The baby's death "has been pretty traumatic on the family," Puckett said.
On Feb. 16, the grandmother brought the baby to her home to visit. Apparently she put the baby down for a nap in a bed with a niece, whose age and identity police would not reveal. When the niece awoke, the baby was not breathing.
Results of an autopsy -- standard in this situation, police said -- are expected within a week.
"We are not investigating anything suspicious at this time," Puckett said.
The baby's body has been returned to Annapolis for a funeral today.
Maryland officials are considering legislation to ban marriages of anyone under age 16, regardless of parental consent.
"These men, they impregnate a young girl and beat the rap by marrying them," said the bill's sponsor, Del. David G. Boschert, a Crownsville Republican. "And I am going to put a stop to it."
A hearing is scheduled for March 16, said Merri Mullaney, Boschert's legislative aide.
Sun staff writer Kris Antonelli contributed to this article.
Pub Date: 2/23/99