Kin Charged in Girl’s Washer Death
CHILHOWIE, Va. (AP) _ A 14-year-old boy was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of his 5-year-old half sister last month in a coin-operated washing machine.
``He told his mother that night that he done it,″ the children’s grandmother, Anna Billings, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Rebecca Hope Wagoner was found dead June 17 after her mother, Rebecca Billings Wagoner, brought the children to the coin-operated laundry in this southwestern Virginia town.
The mother stepped outside and when she returned, she found her 30-pound daughter trapped inside the triple-load washer. The machine’s wash cycle had begun.
Wagoner could not turn off the machine and had to use a rock retrieved from the parking lot to smash the door and pull the girl out. The child, known as Hope, was pronounced dead at a Tennessee hospital.
The boy was charged Thursday. Chilhowie police Chief Dwayne Sheffield declined to release details, saying that to do so ``would be absolutely detrimental to the court proceedings.″
He and Smyth County prosecutors did not immediately return messages Friday seeking further comment.
Jeff Campbell, a lawyer representing the family, was in court Friday, his office said.
Because of his age, the name of the boy was not released. The teenager could face up to 10 years in prison if tried and convicted as an adult.
After Hope’s death, police examined security tapes, collected fingerprints from coins in the washer’s collection box and consulted with the machine’s manufacturer.
The triple-load washer requires 11 quarters to operate and will not accept coins until the heavy door is shut, officials said. The door cannot be unlatched while the machine is operating, they said.
The girl’s father, William Wagoner, would not comment on the details but defended his stepson Thursday.
``He’s still welcome in my home,″ he said. ``I still love him.″