Prosecutors: 7-month-old baby died of dehydration and overheating
BY MICHAEL LANSU Homicide Watch Chicago December 13, 2013 2:32PM
Police mug shot of Erica Hampton
Updated: January 15, 2014 6:12AM
A 7-month-old girl found in a snowsuit and blanket in a “very warm” Lawndale apartment died in part from dehydration and overheating, authorities said Friday.
It was the third time Erica Hampton had left her three young children home alone in her apartment in the past 10 days, Cook County prosecutors said as Hampton stood before Judge Donald Panarese in a heavy black winter coat and jeans.
Hampton, 25, was ordered held in lieu of $250,000 bail for felony child endangerment for the death of her daughter, Lamya Hampton. The elder Hampton was also charged with two misdemeanors.
Lamya was found unresponsive after Hampton’s 2-year-old daughter knocked on a neighbor’s door looking for food about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Assistant State’s Attorney Elizabeth Dibler said.
The neighbor entered Hampton’s residence, in the 3700 block of West 13th Street, and found a 6-year-old girl and the infant home alone in the “very warm” apartment, Dibler said. The baby was wearing a snowsuit, covered in a blanket and strapped into a car seat lying on its side on the top of a bunk bed in the children’s bedroom.
Lamya was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where she was declared dead a short time later, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. She had a post-mortem core temperature of 100.6 degrees, prosecutors said.
An autopsy determined the infant was neglected. The baby was dehydrated, had severely dry skin from eczema, severe diaper rash and a “foul odor” from a lack of bathing, Dibler said.
“Also examined was the diaper that accompanied the victim and found it had been soiled multiple times with feces and urine while indicate that it had not been changed for substantial amount of time,” Dibler said.
The medical examiner’s office determined the snowsuit contributed to the elevated core temperature, and dehydration and overheating were contributing factors in her death, Dibler said.
It wasn’t the first time Hampton left her kids alone in the last few days, prosecutors said.
On the night of Dec. 1, a neighbor found the 6-year-old and 2-year-old naked in the hallway, Dibler said. The children also allegedly knocked on a neighbor’s door looking for food on Dec. 9.
The first time the children were left home alone the neighbor took them for the night, Dibler said. The neighbor called police the second time, and the infant’s father took her and the 2-year-old. The 6-year-old stayed with the neighbor.
“She’s a good person. I really can’t understand how this happened,” said Tyisha Kinsey, 27, who lives across the street, “That’s why it’s so sad. God. She took care of those kids. I never seen her neglect them or anything.
Hampton admitted to leaving the children unattended, Dibler said.
Hampton is the “sole support” of her two surviving children, Assistant Public Defender Steve Stach said. She has a high school degree and has been working at the Sears / Kmart warehouse the past two weeks.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is investigating Hampton for allegations of neglect. The two other children were taken into protective custody.
DCFS said it has no prior reports regarding the family. Hampton will be back in court Dec. 24.