By Diane Madigan
Independent Court Reporter
The parents of the baby who drowned in a Sumpter Township swimming pool last summer have been found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Dana Hathaway pronounced her verdict June 19 after a seven-hour court session that started out as a jury trial and ended up a bench trial at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit.
Oliver Hunt was 11 months old when he apparently crawled into a swimming pool at 45949 Bontekoe Drive in Sumpter Township the morning of Aug. 20.
The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office brought charges of involuntary manslaughter against the parents, Angelina Mae Perry, 39, and Ray Thomas Hunt, 34.
Sumpter Township Police said the parents were sleeping off a drinking binge from the night before, when in the morning little Oliver apparently left his portable crib, crawled 78 feet through the house, down three steps to outdoors and up five onto the deck, through a gate broken in multiple places with a broken latch — and climbed into the pool.
Witnesses included Sumpter Police Officer Jerry Cox, homeowner Shere Cadieux, Ricky Cadieux (18-year-old son of defendant Perry and grandson of Cadieux, who lives at his grandmother’s house with his girlfriend), Gary Hawthorne (who also lives at the house with Shere Cadieux), Ralph James Tucker and Kelly Tucker (next-door neighbors), Brenda Bonior (who was visiting the Tucker home), and Sumpter Police Officer/Evidence Technician Danielle Buccellato.
Ricky Cadieux, who said he had not been drinking that night, testified “Ollie” was not walking by himself. He said he had seen him crawl half way up the deck steps and all the way down.
Cadieux said Ollie could have crawled anywhere he wanted to go.
“He could crawl to the roof, if he wanted,” Ricky Cadieux said.
According to testimony, Oliver had been sleeping in the portable playpen in the living room and after he was found in the pool it was discovered that one side of the playpen had collapsed in a “V” which could have allowed him to crawl out while his parents were sleeping.
After listening to the testimony and arguments of the defense attorneys and the prosecuting attorney, Judge Hathaway reviewed the elements of proof necessary for involuntary manslaughter in this case, which included: failure to provide the legal duty to supervise and secure the child and willfully neglecting to perform such duties.
The trial originally was to be a jury trial for each of the two defendants and they were each to have a jury. Potential jurors for the two juries waited outside the courtroom until after 11 a.m., when they were dismissed in favor of a bench trial.
Perry had arrived at 10:40 a.m. for her 9 a.m. jury trial, delaying the case.
After testimony, Judge Hathaway went to her chambers to review the agreed-upon jury instructions, read the autopsy report, listen to the CD of the 911 call, and arrive at her decision.
She returned to the courtroom 15 minutes later and briefly reviewed the elements of each witness’ testimony.
“All we really know is they failed to watch the 11-month-old child long enough to prevent him from drowning,” Judge Hathaway said.
“What comes into play is knowledge. When it comes to gross negligence, negligence requires knowledge,” she said.
Judge Hathaway said what is unknown was if Oliver had the propensity to go straight through the house to go outside.
“Was Oliver attracted to the pool or was he afraid? The People have not met their burden to show gross negligence on the part of both. The evidence does not show the risk of the pool,” she said.
“I find both defendants not guilty.”
With that verdict, the family stood up and started crying and hugging each other.
Hunt’s court-appointed attorney Brian Gagniuk said, “You are free to go.”
Perry’s court-appointed attorney was Mark Nortley. Standing in for Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Carin Goldfarb, who began the case, was Assistant Prosecuting Attorney David Braxton.
Sumpter Detective John Toth was officer in charge of the case.
By Diane Madigan