Fa­ther charged in son’s death

Tampa Bay Times - - Tampa Bay - BY KATHRYN VARN Times Staff Writer

LARGO — The wa­ter had risen to the edge of the tub, over the rim and onto the floor be­fore Alan Mor­ris re­mem­bered to check on his 13-month-old.

Pinel­las County Sher­iff Bob Gualtieri re­counted Thurs­day how Mor­ris went from the bed­room to the bath­room across the hall­way of the home near Largo.

When he got there, baby Liam was float­ing on his back, wa­ter from the faucet pour­ing onto his face. He was pro­nounced dead that evening.

Deputies would serve a search war­rant weeks later to find out how long it takes to fill the tub: de­pend­ing on the noz­zle set­ting, eight to 23 min­utes.

“That’s be­yond care­less,” Gaultieri said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence. “That’s crim­i­nal.”

Deputies on Thurs­day ar­rested Mor­ris, 34, on an ag­gra­vated man­slaugh­ter charge for his role in the Sept. 28 in­ci­dent. He is be­ing held with­out bail at the Pinel­las County Jail.

The child’s mother, 34-yearold Made­lynne Baren­brugge, doesn’t face charges, as there was no in­di­ca­tion she knew the child was in dan­ger, Gaultieri said.

The evening started nor­mally. Mor­ris re­turned home about 7 p.m. from his con­struc­tion job. The fam­ily ate din­ner to­gether.

The par­ents each took a shower in the home’s one bath­room. Then Mor­ris put Liam in the tub, turned on the wa­ter and plugged the drain, the sher­iff said.

Mor­ris went across into the bed­room, where Baren­brugge had gone af­ter she got out of the shower. The two gave con­flict­ing state­ments about what hap­pened next, but the gist was that they were talk­ing, Gualtieri said.

The in­fant had taken his first steps just the night be­fore, the sher­iff said, and didn’t have the strength to sta­bi­lize him­self in the tub. By the time Mor­ris heard the wa­ter over­flow­ing, it was too late.

The fa­ther was “ex­tremely re­morse­ful,” Gualtieri said. But later the par­ents re­fused to meet for in­ter­views with de­tec­tives.

The night of the in­ci­dent, deputies also found mar­i­juana in the house, along with methadone and Subox­one, med­i­ca­tion used to treat opi­ate ad­dic­tion. Nei­ther par­ent had pre­scrip­tions. They would not con­sent to drug tests, the sher­iff said.

Court records show sev­eral pe­ti­tions for pro­tec­tion and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in­ci­dents be­tween the cou­ple. Gualtieri said one of those in­ci­dents was in De­cem­ber 2016, when Liam was liv­ing with them.

Liam’s case is rem­i­nis­cent of a fa­ther who left his tod­dler in a hot truck last year. Troy Whi­taker, a Hills­bor­ough fire­fighter, faced the same charge — ag­gra­vated man­slaugh­ter — in the death of his young son, Law­son.

The state At­tor­ney’s Of­fice dropped the charge, say­ing the fa­ther didn’t show “in­ten­tional dis­re­gard.”

Gualtieri, agree­ing the case was sim­i­lar, said he made his de­ci­sion in­de­pen­dently of what he thinks pros­e­cu­tors will do.

“I . . . feel ex­tremely strongly about it that our obli­ga­tion is to the kid, our obli­ga­tion is to that dead baby and to make sure some­one is a voice for that child,” he said.

Face­book

Made­lynne Baren­brugge and Alan Mor­ris with new­born son Liam in a photo posted on a rel­a­tive’s Face­book page in 2016.

Alan Mor­ris, 34, was charged with ag­gra­vated man­slaugh­ter in the death of his son.

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