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Ohio Police Probe Child Deaths

July 17, 1998

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) _ One by one, four children in one family have suffocated over an eight-month period, and now police are reportedly focusing on a child in the household who had a habit of choking toddlers.

Police have said they have a suspect, but would not confirm a report in the Dayton Daily News on Friday saying the family believes investigators are focusing on a child in the household.

The four children who died, ages 1 to 3, were stricken at the home of Regina Moreland, who was the grandmother of three of the toddlers and a great-aunt to one. The Montgomery County coroner’s office has ruled all the deaths homicides by suffocation.

Cecile Marshall, Regina Moreland’s mother, has said that with one of their children under suspicion, the family has been reluctant to cooperate with investigators, the newspaper said.

Someone who answered the phone at Marshall’s home Friday said neither Marshall nor Moreland would comment.

Police Sgt. Gary White said a suspect will not be identified until charges are filed.

He said police have not presented their suspicions to the family but acknowledged the relatives could have received information from other sources.

One relative said a child in the Moreland home tried to choke her 3-year-old daughter during a visit last year. White said police were investigating but would not confirm the assailant was a child.

And before the deaths began, three other children stopped breathing but survived, police said.

Officers are investigating whether those medical emergencies are related to the string of deaths, White said. He said police became aware of the incidents through contacts with social service and other agencies.

In one of those cases, a child held shut the nostrils of her daughter, Paullecia Anderson, 21, told the Daily News.

``My daughter told me someone tried to hold her nose, but I didn’t think anyone was trying to kill her,″ Anderson said.

Moreland attorney Anthony Van Noy said he knows police are investigating people who had access to the children but has not been told a child was the focus.

Regina Moreland has an unpublished telephone number and could not be reached.

Three of the four victims who died _ DaJainae Phillips, 1, Alexis Marshall, 2, and Danatta Moreland, 3 _ were stricken at Ms. Moreland’s former home in Dayton late last year. The latest, 2-year-old Kelab Moreland, died June 25 in her home in a suburb of Dayton.

Police had earlier ruled out the possibility that environmental conditions in the home may have caused the deaths. And the coroner said his investigation could turn up no evidence of natural deaths.

Update hourly