The single mother of a 17-month-old Morgan County, Tenn., boy whose June 1 death at home is being investigated as a homicide is speaking out for the first time since her child died.
Amanda Beaty, 29, of Wartburg, Tenn., said she wants the investigation to be over and the truth to come out. She also wants people to stop accusing her and her boyfriend of abusing the child. In the days following Levi Beaty's death, the two other children in the home, 6-year-old Leah and 2-year-old Noah, were taken by the Tennessee Department of Children's Services and placed in foster care pending the investigation's outcome.
While officials said a preliminary autopsy report revealed severe injuries that led authorities to believe foul play was involved, Beaty contends her youngest son had a blood disorder that weakened him and says his medical records will clear her and boyfriend Rodger Prince, 42, of any wrongdoing.
"Let me have my kids back and let us grieve," she said. "They didn't even let them attend their baby brother's funeral. People are talking about us, slandering our names."
That request is not so easy to grant with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe ongoing.
A Morgan County Sheriff's Office deputy was called to the Beaty home the evening of June 1 on a report that a child was not breathing and was unresponsive after having choked on a cookie.
Prince told the deputy he had cleared the cookie from Levi's mouth, but the deputy reported he found no evidence of the cookie in the child's mouth or on his clothes and saw no cookie box. Beaty said those cookies are kept in a can in the kitchen.
EMS personnel arrived and took the child to Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge, where he was pronounced dead.
Beaty said Levi was on a couch eating a cookie before he died.
"He was talking as I was going into the kitchen and he collapsed on the couch," she said. "I turned around and started screaming.
"I immediately called for help. Rodger started doing CPR, and we got help from the neighbors," she said.
A preliminary autopsy report prepared by Dr. William Bennett revealed the child died from multiple blunt-force trauma injuries, including a spinal fracture and severe damage to his thoracic aorta artery.
"That could happen during CPR," Beaty said.
Nobody has been arrested in connection with the child's death.
Beaty said an emergency room doctor told her Levi's blood count was so thin, he didn't have enough blood to pump through his heart.
"His heart gave out," she said. "Levi was in complete cardiac arrest when he got to the ER. In bold letters in their domestic violence survey it says 'Negative,' meaning there are no signs of blunt-force trauma to Levi."
But Levi and his siblings have twice been removed from their mother's custody in the year before Levi died.
"Back in November, my 6-year-old got Levi out of a play pen and somehow dropped him, and his collarbone got broke. I took him to the hospital, and a surgeon told me Levi had a normal break from a 6-year-old dropping him," she said.
She said Levi repeatedly went to the doctor for pneumonia and sinus infections, took breathing treatments and in January was diagnosed with a blood disorder.
"They told me his white blood cells were too thin," she said. "They referred us to [East Tennessee] Children's Hospital."
Beaty said Levi's brother, Noah, was diagnosed with the same disorder. At that point DCS was contacted about the broken collarbone. The agency had the children stay with a baby sitter at night, but they stayed with their mom during the day for two weeks while DCS investigated, she said.
"I proved to them I wasn't abusing them. They talked to the kids alone and let them come back home," she said.
Beaty said that in March, Levi became sick and was put in the hospital where a full-body X-ray found hairline fractures in an arm and leg. "They've yet to tell me how he could get breaks like that," she said.
While in Children's Hospital with pneumonia, he needed a blood transfusion because his platelets were so low, Beaty said.
"When he got out of the hospital, the staff at the Children's Hospital referred back to DCS and blamed everything on abuse. On March 14 they placed the kids again, this time with my parents," she said. "I took a polygraph test and proved I never hurt my kids and they let me have them back. Now, on June 1, everything happened again."
TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said that because the case is still open he couldn't comment on the investigation.
"In any case and certainly this case, we would pursue any and all leads and avenues in search for answers," he said.
DCS spokesman Rob Taylor said he also couldn't comment on the DCS investigation.
"The department is aware of circumstances around this very sad case but there's nothing we can say," he said.
Beaty said everyone wants to assume her children have been abused.
"None of us should be a suspect because nobody hurt that baby," she said. "I will do my part, and I will get to the bottom of it."
Contact Lance Coleman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-342-6376.