BABY BOY CHARLES: Foster mom jailed
First-degree murder charge
pending in boy's death
October 6, 2006
By LISA KIM BACH REVIEW-JOURNAL
Ochs Foster mom faces charges in death of 7-month-old Baby Boy
Charles in August
The foster mother of Baby Boy
Charles, who died in August after suffering head trauma medical
experts believe was not accidental, faces a charge of first-degree
murder by child abuse.
"Metro submitted the case today and
we approved it for prosecution," Clark County Deputy District
Attorney Ronald Bloxham said Thursday.
Melanie Ochs was arrested at her
home Thursday afternoon and is being held at the Clark County
Detention Center without bail.
Defense attorney Robert Langford
said he unsuccessfully sought permission to have Ochs turn herself
in, but his calls to law enforcement were not returned.
Bail amounts will be argued when
Ochs makes her initial court appearance. Langford said that probably
won't take place before Monday.
"It's a shame that the police
department acted in such an unprofessional way," Langford said,
adding that he's ready to prove his client is not guilty of the
"Her life is her children,"
Langford said of Ochs, who has an adopted son, 3, and natural
daughter, 2, who have been placed with their grandparents. "She'd
tell you that she loves her children. This is a person serious about
taking care of her kids."
Earlier this week, the county
coroner's office ruled that the death of the 7-month-old boy was a
On Aug. 2, emergency responders
were called to the Ochs residence on Dune Cove Road, near Sahara
Avenue and Fort Apache Road, because the baby wasn't breathing. Baby
Boy Charles died in the hospital two days later.
During a taped interview with
police, Ochs denied intentionally injuring the child. When asked if
she could recall the baby suffering any falls or accidents, Ochs
recounted the baby slipping backward in a bathtub on July 31, when
she was bathing him with her two other children.
"He cried hysterically because any
little bump makes him cry hysterically," Ochs told police. "I sat
him up, and he still cried, and I picked him up on my lap and got
soaking wet and told him: 'You're fine.' You know, suck it up like a
man, or you know, whatever. And he was fine."
A report from county Family
Services stated authorities were told that "another child had pushed
the baby down."
Dr. Arthur Montes, a pediatric and
diagnostic radiologist quoted in the arrest warrant, told police
neither scenario is likely. Montes reviewed the victim's medical
records from both Summerlin Hospital Medical Center, where he was
initially taken, and the University Medical Center, where the baby
was transferred because he required a higher level of care than
Summerlin could provide.
"It is Dr. Montes' opinion that the
injuries the victim sustained could not be caused by one of his
siblings jumping on top of him, carrying him, dropping him, or from
the victim tipping over from the sitting position," police said in
the warrant. "It is also Dr. Montes' opinion that the injuries could
not have been caused by Charles hitting the back of his head on the
bathtub two nights prior."
An initial assessment of the baby
by Summerlin emergency room physician Thomas Gowan found him to have
suffered a skull fracture and swelling of the brain, with acute loss
of consciousness and unresponsiveness. Gowan also found "a high
likelihood of non-accidental trauma."
Ochs told police she discovered the
baby's injuries when she checked on him shortly after putting him in
his crib for the night. She noticed he wasn't in his normal sleeping
position, and when she picked him up, the baby was limp.
"Ochs told police she held the baby
in her arms and tried to give him a breath. After that, the baby
"I thought: 'This is all wrong,' "
Ochs said. "This is bad."
Ochs called 911, police said, and
when the operator told Ochs to tip back the baby's head and prepare
to give him a breath, she found a more substantial injury.
"The back of his head felt mushy
when I felt his head," Ochs is quoted as saying in the warrant. "And
I said: 'Oh my gosh, he's got a huge lump on his head.' "
According to Las Vegas police Lt.
Brian Evans of the special victims section, the department's abuse
and neglect detail has investigated 43 child deaths so far this
year. Six of those cases were found to be murder by child abuse.
This case unfolds against a
backdrop of troubled times for county Family Services, which is
under fire for underreporting and failing to investigate past child
deaths that could have related to abuse and neglect.
Two lawsuits have been filed
against Clark County, one by the nonprofit California-based National
Center for Youth Law, alleging that the county places children in
unsafe environments without adequate supervision, and one by the
natural parents of Everlyse Cabrera, the 2 1/2-year-old girl who
disappeared in June while in foster care. Everlyse has not yet been
In addition, since the death of
Baby Boy Charles, three other children who have had contact with
Family Services have died, including 15-month-old Joshua Sharp, who
stopped breathing while at Child Haven on Aug. 15. Child Haven is
the county's emergency shelter for abused and neglected children.
Langford said he is concerned that
with that level of negative attention on child welfare, authorities
might try to make an example of Ochs, who has never faced
accusations of child abuse.
In addition, Langford said that as
a foster and adoptive parent, Ochs has gone through a level of
screening and monitoring that natural parents never have to go
As for the opinions of the medical
experts in the warrants, Langford said it isn't unusual to get
medical experts who have conflicting conclusions about the same case
when findings are challenged in court.