Officials investigate infant’s death at motel

LISBON — The death of an infant at the Frola Motel in the early hours of Monday is being considered an accident at this time.

It also has left county employees to wonder what else could have been done.

Dallas Delo, a twin who was born on Aug. 14, 2017, was reportedly found unresponsive in room 9 at the Frola by his father, Aaron Michael Delo, 25, State Line Road, Negley.

Delo was watching the child after the child’s mother, Megan Hetrick, 23, Garfield Avenue, East Palestine, had been taken into custody by the county sheriff’s office on Sunday on a warrant to answer allegations for failure to pay child support.

A sheriff’s deputy and a Lisbon police officer, who backed up the deputy, decided to contact Children Services because of the condition of the room at the Frola. Hetrick, who also is known as Megan Barker, was unable to get her mother or sister to agree to come get the children. However, Delo arrived back at the room and agreed to care for his children.

After hearing details about the concerns of law enforcement, Children Services determined the case did not meet the criteria for them to open a case or to take the children into their custody. There were reportedly three children staying in the room, including the twins, a boy and a girl, along with an older girl.

Sheriff Ray Stone said his understanding was Delo brought the children into the bed with him and “planned on watching the ball drop” with the children, but he fell asleep. Stone said Delo woke to find the infant unresponsive and investigators believe the father may have rolled on him.

“We think it’s a tragic accident,” Stone said of investigator’s findings.

The county coroner’s office responded to the hotel. A call on Tuesday to Dr. George Scott Wilson about whether a cause of death has been determined for the child was not returned.

Initially, deputies were called to the Frola by Ian Wellington, who was staying in room 10 and reported there were people outside his room threatening to assault someone. After speaking with Wellington, Deputy Luke Skidmore and Lisbon Patrolman Kody Watkins spoke with Hetrick, who reportedly would not fully open the door because of her state of undress and claimed the man in the room next door was asking her to do sexual favors for money. She asked to be allowed to get dressed before letting officers inside the room.

After being allowed in, Watkins reportedly found one baby sleeping on clothes on the floor of the bathroom. In his report, Watkins described the room as messy with copper wiring all over the floor and cleaning supplies on the floor. However, he noted Hetrick had the proper materials to care for the children and they did not appear to be unhealthy. Stone said sheriff’s Detective Jeff Haugh told him he had seen many worse places than the condition of the room.

Eileen Dray-Bardon, director of county Jobs and Family Services, said when the help hotline was contacted and the on-call Children Services employee heard the details, that person got a second opinion while making a decision about the situation. The on-call employee contacted a supervisor to confirm the case did not meet the protocol of an immediate emergency. Dray-Bardon said a baby lying on clothes on the floor does not warrant someone’s children being removed.

Twelve hours later Dray-Bardon said the agency was contacted by the sheriff’s office about the death of one of the twins, which she said was not the one who had been sleeping on the floor on the clothes.

“It was one of those things completely unforeseeable,” Dray-Bardon said. “If we had a crystal ball we could stop everything from happening.”

Dray-Bardon also called what happened a tragedy, noting what happened is one of the concerns which has led to them working with the Columbiana County Health Department on a safe sleep initiative, which is providing free Pack n’ Play portable cribs to low-income families through the Cribs for Kids program.

“No parent does this intentionally,” Dray-Bardon said. “They just don’t think about it.”

County Common Pleas Judge Scott Washam said he was told of the circumstances involving the death of Hetrick’s baby and changed her bond to a $2,500 personal recognizance bond on Monday, allowing her to be released and the family to grieve the loss of the infant together. Additionally, Dray-Bardon said they have been working with the family, helping them find a safe place to be together and grieve.

At the same time, Dray-Bardon said staff members at the JFS spent the day on Tuesday questioning what happened, talking about the circumstances of the situation, the information they were given and what led to the tragedy.