Army holds meeting about baby deaths

Fort Bragg (Wikimedia)

September 16, 2010 9:02:17 PM PDT
Residents at Fort Bragg are upset about 10 babies who died mysteriously while in family housing on post. The grieving families say they've gotten very few answers about their children's deaths, while others living on post are wondering if their families are safe.

Fort Bragg officials and a spokesperson for Army criminal investigations out of Washington are trying to answer some of the questions.

"I think people outside the military don't really understand how passionate the chain of command is about taking care of soldiers and families," Fort Bragg Chief of Staff Gen Michael Garrett said.

About 50 people, families and children attended the meeting Thursday at Linden Oaks Elementary School.

After the meeting, senior military leaders talked about efforts to get to the bottom of the heartbreaking mystery.

"We don't know at this point if there is any causal factors at, all have no conclusive evidence at this point if any factors associated with the deaths," Army CID Chris Grey said.

If military commanders hoped to ease families' fears, some say they didn't.

"I feel like they pretty much avoided the questions," mother Pearlene Sculley said. "They didn't give any answers they just answered what made them feel comfortable."

Sculley's son died in 2007. He was one of three infant deaths in the same on post quarters that commanders say got their attention.

"My gut is that there is an issue with one set of quarters we are not putting anybody in there until we figure that out," she said.

So far most of the autopsies for the 10 infants' deaths in the past four years are undetermined and point towards SIDS. That's been the case for one family who marked what would've been their daughters first birthday on Thursday.

Family and friends of Emma Neuterman wrote messages to her and tied them to balloons they released on what would've been her first birthday.

"She was perfectly healthy," mother Cassandra Neuterman said.

"She's perfectly fine and gone in a snap of a finger," father SPC Robert Neuterman said.

The night before Emma Neuterman died, her mother noticed she had a runny nose and planned to take her to the doctor the next morning, but when she went to wake her there was a little bit of blood coming from her nostril.

"She felt different; she felt kind of cold to the touch and knew something was severely wrong and called 911," Cassandra Neuterman said.

Emma Neuterman was declared dead an hour later and her autopsy came back undetermined.

She was the third infant death on post in 2009. The next day, an email exchange between Fort Bragg personnel obtained by ABC11 Eyewitness News shows they wanted to investigate whether there is any link between the deaths and whether it was possible if contaminated Chinese drywall may have been used in the homes.

So far, Fort Bragg officials say their test have come back negative. But Army investigators out of Washington and the consumer product safety commission are still investigating.

Fort Bragg officials also said during the meeting Thursday that they will test the ground around the homes, still looking for a possible link.

The Neutermans say they've heard the family living in their home now where Emma died, was offered a gift certificate Tuesday to leave the house while the builder tests for mold.

"It doesn't seem right, I don't know why they'd go that route," Cassandra Neuterman said.

But at the same time they're glad something's being done.

"We just want answers," SPC Robert Neuterman said.

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