Monday, September 7, 2015

Custodial dad charged with "endangerment" in death of 2-year-old daughter; girl died from blunt force trauma to head (Carthage, Missouri)

Media reports thus far have been a little inconsistent and sketchy as to how dad ALBERT STEVEN O'CONNOR gained custody of this little girl and who gave it to him.

Preliminary autopsy findings confirm Carthage girl died from blows to head

Posted: Tuesday, September 1, 2015 11:53 am
Debby Woodin
Posted on Sep 1, 2015
by Debby Woodin

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Preliminary autopsy findings show that a 2-year-old Carthage girl died of blunt force trauma to the head, according to Police Chief Greg Dagnan.

Dagnan said the body of Emalata "Emma" Hoeft has been transferred to Ulmer Funeral Home in Carthage where it will have to be determined who will have rights to conduct final arrangements for the toddler.

Her father, Albert Steven O'Connor, 26, 1915 Missouri Ave. is in custody in lieu of $200,000 bond on a charge of felony endangerment of a child for leaving the girl home alone several times before her death.

The girl's biological mother lives in Hawaii. She and her family want to claim the girl's body for final rites, the police chief said.

The father's girlfriend, Tearra Diane Olson, 20, who was identified as his fiancee, is in custody in lieu of $750,000 surety bond and/or $250,000 cash bond, formally charged with felony child abuse resulting in death.

A patholigist has ruled the manner of death as homicide, Dagnan said, though investigators won't know the extent of the girl's injuries or whether there is evidence of past physical abuse until they receive a written report of the autopsy findings.

Olson allegedly told investigators that the girl was fussy on Friday night, screaming, crying and refusing to eat her dinner about 6 p.m. and that Olson struck the girl's head against a hard surface three times, according to an affidavit by Detective Ben Vogt filed in Jasper County Circuit Court at Joplin. Olson said the girl was not breathing and she put the girl to bed and closed the door, where emergency responders found her dead at 8:08 a.m. Saturday after being called to the couple's home because the girl was unresponsive.

Olston had been working at Flexolator and O'Connor at Butterball.

Though O'Connor has not been charged in connection with the girl's death, his charge of child endangerment is the result of statements he allegedly made to police that the couple had left the toddler home alone four times last week while they worked.

O'Connor told them the girl was left alone in her room with a sippy cup of water from 9 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, according to an affidavit by Detective Adam Blankenship.

"Our belief is that she died Friday night," Dagnan said.

The couple has no other children, he said. The father and biological mother had a custody agreement between themselves that allowed the child to be in his custody, according to the police chief. There was no history of police calls to the couple's home and they had lived in Carthage only a few months, coming there from California, Dagnan said.