A 31-year-old woman from Everett, PA, has been charged with homicide following the death of a 3-year-old boy, according to a Pennsylvania State Police report.
At about 9:16 p.m. on May 28, police responded to a call from Chelsea Renae Cooley, who told them the toddler was choking on baby wipes. The report says the child was airlifted to UPMC Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he died on May 29 at 4 p.m.
The autopsy revealed “extensive bruising and injury to the victim’s body”, the report says, and the death was ruled a homicide. The cause of death is listed on the report as manual strangulation and asphyxiation. WTAJ also reports that the autopsy notes scratches, an adult-sized handprint, and tracheal hemorrhaging.
On May 31, police say they charged Cooley with criminal homicide, endangering the welfare of children, aggravated assault, aggravated assault of a victim less than 6-years-old, strangulation, simple assault, and recklessly endangering another person.
The boy was Cooley’s step-son, according to the report by WTAJ. Police say the doctors reported the removal of four wet wipes from the toddler’s throat, and that there was blood on them. The wipes were so far down his throat there was no way he could have done it himself, according to the WTAJ report, quoting court documents.
Cooley claimed that the boy had a temper tantrum at lunch, court documents say, and later refused to eat dinner after watching TV all afternoon. She put him to bed, checked in on him at 8:30 p.m., and found him cold and unresponsive, according to WTAJ.
Police say she changed her story, later claiming to have found the boy in the bathroom. He grabbed his throat and fell to the floor, according to the report. Police say Cooley took a photo and sent it to the child’s father, who was working a night shift. Police stated the time stamp on the photo was 8:41 p.m.
WTAJ also reports that police became suspicious upon realizing it took her 25 minutes to call 911. Police say Cooley claimed her phone sometimes failed to make calls.
Upon talking to the boy’s 11-year-old sister, police say they learned that the boy was put to bed at around 7 p.m. The sister told them she gave him a hug, then resumed playing video games with headphones on. She said she didn’t hear anything until her father called. After this, she said she wandered from her room to find her brother.
Police say the sister pointed out the toddler wore different clothes than when he went to bed.
WTAJ reports that Cooley was arraigned before a judge on May 31, and that she was placed in Bedford County Jail without bail. According to WTAJ, the preliminary hearing is on June 8.