CHARLESTON -- A woman was arrested at 2 p.m. Wednesday for the death of her 2-year-old son after police say she admitted leaving the infant unattended for three days, allegedly leading to his death.
Savannah M. Weiss, 22, of Charleston is charged with first-degree murder, according to court records, for knowingly neglecting to provide food, liquid and sanitation to the child, listed in records pertaining to this case as “M.J.E,” leading to his death. State's Attorney Brian Bower said an autopsy found that the cause of death was dehydration, starvation, or a combination of the two.
The boy's body was discovered Monday, when emergency crews responded to a report of an unresponsive child at 1052 First St. in Charleston, Bower said. According to police records on the case, the boy was found in a portable playpen on his side atop a reading pillow among old food and “accrued filth.”
Police records also stated that the residence was filled with garbage, debris and food, animal feces and unsealed needles, which littered parts of the floor.
According to those police records, Weiss and the boy's grandmother, Mildred Moore, were at the residence at the time police responded. Moore told police she arrived at the home Monday to help with errands when Weiss exited and told her that the boy was dead.
“Moore had to convince Weiss to call 911, quoting Weiss, ‘No, mom we can't,’ and ‘No, I’m gonna go to prison,’” according to the police records on the case.
A police investigation into the incident, which is still ongoing, revealed that Weiss had left her residence at approximately 10 a.m. Dec. 1 and did not return until 6 p.m. Sunday, Bower said.
Weiss’s 17-year-old boyfriend, listed as “J.A.B.,” said he picked her up from Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center and took her to a mutual friend’s residence Dec. 1, according to those police records. Over the weekend, the two made trips to Sarah Bush Lincoln and Jimmy John’s and then back to the friend’s residence before returning to Weiss’s residence Sunday, according to the boyfriend’s account of the weekend.
“During this time, the child was left unattended (in the residence), confined to this playpen with two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a vitamin (water) bottle with a needle-sized hole poked into the cap,” Bower said in a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Police records state that Weiss told them she checked on the boy Sunday and observed him facing the television. She believed he was fine, records state, but "she did not touch, hold or physically make any contact with him."
Weiss initially told police that Emily Snively, 18, of Charleston, referred to in police documents as "Emily S.", was watching the boy while she was away, according to police records, but later admitted that her son was left alone over the weekend.
Present at the press conference Thursday, Snively told reporters she was surprised when she heard of the boy’s death.
“I never suspected anything other than her being a good mother honestly,” Snively said.
She said she was “disgusted and disappointed” when she heard of the incident. Snively said she has babysat for the child only once before, in October, but has known Weiss for two years.
“He was a normal little boy. Sweet. He liked to cuddle and be loved on,” she said.
During the investigation of the residence, police also found two “malnourished” black dogs in a dog cage at the residence, case records state. The two dogs were seized by animal control. In response to a question about further charges pertaining to the animals, Bower said Thursday that the investigation is focused on the death of the child at this time.
Bower said Weiss has had no previous criminal convictions.
However, Moore did tell police that she has called the Department of Children and Family Services regarding Weiss as recently as August because of “substandard living conditions,” according to the police records on the case. Moore also told police that the boy had a few medical issues and that Weiss frequently missed medical appointments to treat him.
Weiss is currently in custody at the Coles County jail and would have to post $150,000 bond to be released. If convicted, Weiss could receive a sentence of life in prison.
Her initial court appearance is set for Monday.