Okaloosa woman charged with newborn’s death

Published 10:20 pm Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office has charged a Fort Walton Beach woman with an open count of murder and aggravated child abuse in connection with the death of her newborn daughter.

Twenty-nine-year-old Tonisha Lache Crowell was booked into the Okaloosa County Jail in Crestview around one a.m. Saturday.

Investigators say Crowell went to Fort Walton Beach Medical Center February 26th due to vaginal bleeding. When she was examined by a doctor, she denied any pregnancy or birth. However hospital staff reported that Crowell had undergone an ultrasound at the hospital two days prior after complaining of abdominal pain, and been deemed approximately 38 weeks pregnant.

Crowell continued her denials when an OCSO investigator arrived at the hospital to question her. Deputies responded to Crowell’s townhouse at 996 Leigh Anne Lane in Fort Walton Beach. They say Crowell’s fiance said he had sent Crowell to the hospital after she experienced heavy bleeding she attributed to rectal bleeding.

During a search, they located a seven-pound-baby girl in a white garbage bag north of the townhomes, near a wooden fence around 7:10 p.m. When a deputy thought she saw the infant’s chest rise, she attached an AED or automatic external defibrillator. It advised do not shock, so she began CPR and called for an ambulance. During lifesaving attempts at the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center Emergency Room, the infant tried to breathe at a rate of approximately four breaths a minute but ultimately was pronounced dead at 8 p.m.

Doctors believe the baby had been born around 3 p.m. Investigators say the newborn had been subjected to temperatures below 50 degrees

Fahrenheit for up to four hours prior to its discovery and also suffered blood loss due to an unclamped or untied umbilical cord.

Crowell told investigators she misled her fiance and others about her pregnancy and the birth. She also relayed that after the baby was born into a toilet, she thought it was dead and never checked for a pulse or to see if it was breathing, and did not call 9-1-1. She put the newborn in a trash bag and took the bag outside.

Investigators say a child in the townhome during the timeframe when doctors believe the birth took place reported hearing a baby crying while Crowell was in the bathroom.