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Child who died after being submerged in bathtub is identified


St. Paul police Sgt. Paul Schnell said Brianna Rose Jackson, 18 months, was declared dead on Thursday after the near-drowning Wednesday in a foster home

Last update: July 5, 2009 – 11:05 PM

St. Paul police on Sunday released the name of a toddler who died last week after she was found submerged in a bathtub in a St. Paul foster home.

St. Paul police Sgt. Paul Schnell said Brianna Rose Jackson, 18 months, was declared dead on Thursday after the near-drowning Wednesday in a foster home in the 1600 block of Darlene Street. Police continue to investigate the circumstances around her death.

Brianna was being cared for by foster parents David and Barbara Wright, 50 and 46, respectively. The Wrights, who began taking in foster children in 2002, were licensed to provide care for up to five children younger than 18.

Schnell refused to identify Brianna’s biological parents, saying their identities are part of a child protection-related matter unrelated to her death.

Brianna’s 3-year-old sibling, who was in the bathtub with her, has been removed from the Wrights’ care. The children apparently were left alone for a few minutes, during which Brianna slipped beneath the water, police have said.

Records show that police have been called to the Wrights’ residence 14 times in the past five years for instances described as disturbances or domestics.


St. Paul toddler found submerged in a bathtub died Thursday



Investigation focusing on time toddler, sibling were alone

By Emily Gurnon

Updated: 07/04/2009 10:15:54 PM CDT

The toddler who was found submerged in a bathtub at a St. Paul foster home Wednesday has died.

The 18-month-old girl, whom police have not yet identified, was pronounced dead at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, but the medical examiner received the body Saturday, said Sgt. Paul Schnell, spokesman for the St. Paul police. It was not immediately clear why officials said the child was in critical condition until Saturday.

Investigators could present a case to the Ramsey County attorney’s office for possible charges by the middle to the end of this week, Schnell said.

“We’re devastated,” said Barbara Wright, the foster mother. She said the negative media reports are insensitive to the child’s biological family and added that their attorney has advised them not to talk to reporters.

“This is a terrible tragedy for the biological parents of the toddler, as well as for the family that was trying to provide a safe environment for the child,” Schnell said.

“The only thing that we can hope is that it serves as a reminder to all of us about the importance of keeping an eye on our kids and how quickly tragedy can strike,” he said.

An autopsy is scheduled for today.

Many questions remain about the incident.

The victim had been in a bathtub with a 3-year-old sibling at the home in the 1600 block of Darlene Street when her foster father stepped out of the room momentarily, Schnell said.

An adult, who described the man who had left the room as his father, went in the bathroom and found the younger child submerged and unresponsive, Schnell said.

Paramedics began resuscitation and took the girl to Children’s Hospital and Clinics in St. Paul.

Police are investigating how long the children were alone in the tub.

“They don’t have an exact length of time; that is one of the things that they’re focused on,” Schnell said.

As of Saturday, Daniel and Barbara Wright still had an active license to provide foster care for up to five children, according to Minnesota Department of Human Services online records. The department hasn’t issued any sanctions to the license since it was issued in March 2002, according to the DHS licensing division.

Last year, St. Paul police notified child-protection officials after the foster mother said she was having trouble caring for children in the home because her husband had left the home after an argument, according to a June 2008 police report.

Janine Moore, director of Ramsey County Children and Family Services, said she couldn’t comment on whether her office has investigated or is investigating allegations about the home.

Neither Wright has a criminal record.

Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522.

14 police calls to foster home led up to near-death


The near-drowning was the latest in five years worth of calls to the St. Paul house, including one last year from the frantic provider herself.


Fourteen times in five years, police have been called to a St. Paul foster home where an 18-month-old girl nearly drowned this week after being left unattended in a bathtub.

Once last year, the caller was the foster-care provider herself, seemingly frantic about her husband leaving the house after an argument and warning she was “emotionally unable to care for the children” when alone, police said.

Police and state human services records have identified the foster-care providers as Barbara L. Wright, 46, and her husband, Daniel L. Wright, 50.

Since that afternoon, five more calls have been made to police about the house across the street from an East Side playground, the most recent involving the near-drowning Wednesday. The girl remains hospitalized in critical condition.

Initial reports indicated the 18-month-old and her 3-year-old sibling were left alone for a brief period before the toddler was found submerged, said police spokesman Sgt. Paul Schnell. The 3-year-old since has been moved elsewhere. Nobody appeared to be home Thursday or Friday.

Investigators now are working to determine how long the children were left unattended, Schnell said. It wasn’t clear how many children had been living in the house.

Paul Gustafson, a spokesman for the Ramsey County attorney’s office, said that as of Thursday, police had not forwarded to prosecutors any request to consider charges. Since 2007, however, authorities have prosecuted at least two cases in the Twin Cities area in which mothers left toddlers alone in bathtubs and returned to find them drowned.

Last year, a Lakeville woman was sentenced to six months in jail and 10 years’ probation after an August 2007 incident in which she left her 11-month-old daughter and 2-year-old son in the tub while she shopped for shoes on the Internet. The girl died.

Earlier this year, a Brooklyn Center woman was spared jail time but was sentenced to six months’ house arrest after her 13-month-old son drowned in a tub while she talked on the phone for nearly 40 minutes.

At the start, Wednesday’s incident in the 1600 block of Darlene Street was investigated as a possible case of child neglect, according to a report filed Wednesday.

Past stresses

According to the June 4, 2008, report, Wright called 911 “continually” that day to report that her husband had gone and that she was unable to care for the children alone.

Daniel Wright had left to “cool down” after the couple argued, she told police then. She needed him, she added, to help care for their 5-year-old daughter and to lift in the bathroom a foster child using a wheelchair. She was very tired from a lack of sleep, the police report said, and was suffering from back pain.

Police persuaded her husband to return home.

The officer who was at the scene wrote that it was difficult to determine what kind of care the disabled child might be getting when the husband was not there. But the officer added: “The residence was clean and all three of the children inside the residence appeared to be clean and cared for,” the report said.

Police shared the report with child-protection authorities, but it was unknown Friday whether Ramsey County conducted any follow-up investigation.

Of the 14 police calls to the address since June 2004, three stemmed from disturbances and four calls involved incidents described only as “domestics.” No reports were written for those seven calls, making it difficult to gauge the seriousness of the incidents. In May 2008, police also responded to a report about a runaway there.

The house, which began taking foster children in 2002, is licensed to provide care for up to five children younger than 18.

Because of restrictions in the state’s data practices law governing child-protection matters, Schnell said there were limits to what he could say about Wednesday’s incident. For example, when asked whether any foster children had been removed from the house Wednesday, he said only: “There are no foster children there at the present time.”

Quiet aftermath

No one answered the door at the house Thursday afternoon or Friday morning. Children’s scooters were in the grass out front; a trampoline and a camper took up much of the back yard.

Across the street, neighbor Nicolas Wegener, 26, said that given the size of the foster home, he suspected the living conditions there would be tight. The house, which sits on a corner lot, was much like his own home, he said, and “I couldn’t imagine having more than two kids in this place,” he said.

Other neighbors, who asked not to be identified, said that some of the younger people at the house — residents and visitors — were unruly at times. Asked how the foster home fit into the area, one neighbor said: “Everyone in the neighborhood feels sorry for the woman living next door.”

Anthony Lonetree • 612-673-4109


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