Video: Charges in toddler dehydration death

updated 4/16/2008 1:55:47 PM ET 2008-04-16T17:55:47

Two family friends accused of depriving a toddler of fluid for a week as punishment for bed-wetting appeared in court Wednesday to face charges in his death.

Police said 23-month-old Amari Jackson died of dehydration while Sharon Patterson and her brother Robert Patterson were caring for him in February.

Investigators said glasses around the house were laced with hot sauce to keep the boy from drinking.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Robert Patterson told police that the boy cried for his mother when he began staying with him and his sister, but "towards the end of his stay Amari was crying for something to drink."

Amari was pronounced dead at to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where medical records indicate that he "appeared wasted" and had "sunken eyes."

Sharon Patterson, 39, was charged with manslaughter, cruelty to persons and risk of injury to a minor. Her 31-year-old brother was charged with cruelty to persons and risk of injury to a minor.

Mother was sick with fever
The pair did not enter pleas during their brief appearance in Meriden Superior Court. Judge Arthur Hadden increased Sharon Patterson's bond from $250,000 to $500,000, calling the allegations "shocking in nature." He left Robert Patterson's bond at $150,000.

Both were represented by public defenders who did not comment after their appearances.

Amari's mother, Sara Hicks, said she has been friends with Sharon Patterson's daughter since they were 8. She said Sharon Patterson offered to care for her son for about a week because she was sick with a fever and caring for her 8-month-old daughter.

Hicks said she cannot make sense of her son's death but was pleased police had charged the Pattersons.

Drinking, smoking marijuana
Sharon Patterson told police she had been drinking and smoking marijuana the day before Amari died, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. She also told them she had previously lost custody of four children because of drug addiction. Attorneys said in court Wednesday that she has mental health issues.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit, Sharon Patterson said she was frustrated with Hicks for not coming by and checking on Amari or bringing him any clothes or food. "She was planning on depriving Amari Jackson of liquids for a week and didn't realize that Amari could get sick by dehydration," the document said.

Hicks said she spoke with Amari on the phone frequently and twice dropped off diapers at the house. She said the Pattersons never indicated he was wetting the bed or that there were any problems.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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