Innocent Lost: Aaliyah King

March 16, 2014 

Aaliyah King, 3 months

BORN: November 21, 2008

DIED: March 6, 2009

CAUSE OF DEATH: Sudden unexplained infant death

MANNER OF DEATH: Undetermined

HER STORY: Aaliyah King was 14 weeks old when she died. The baby had been taken the previous evening to an emergency room with a 106-degree temperature and suffering from diarrhea; she was given antibiotics and sent home. Early the next morning, her mother, Timeka McCullough, gave Aaliyah a bottle of formula and the child fell asleep again in a king-size bed alongside her father and a 1-year-old sibling.

Later, McCullough woke the baby's 22-year-old father, David King, so that he could attend a court hearing. As he got up, King said later, he checked on Aaliyah and "thought she was still sleeping." When McCullough subsequently went to change the baby's diaper, she noticed that Aaliyah was not breathing, although she was still warm to the touch. Rushed back to the emergency room, the baby was declared dead shortly afterward.

Both parents were tested for drugs: McCullough came up negative, but King tested positive for cocaine, marijuana and painkillers. After an autopsy, the cause of Aaliyah's demise was given as "sudden unexplained infant death," and its manner was undetermined, although the autopsy report noted that she had been found dead while sharing a bed with an adult and another child.

The Manatee County Sheriff's Office blamed the death on neglect and substance abuse, with some indicators of inadequate supervision. Although the medical examiner was unable to determine a definitive cause of death, the law enforcement summary noted what it called the "co-sleeping" issue.

"Given that Mr. King tested positive for illegal substances," the summary said, "investigative staff believe that impairment could have played a part in Aaliyah's death." A review of King's background shortly after his daughter's death revealed that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest on drug-related charges stemming from a homicide.

Aaliyah's mother had a long DCF history: She was listed as a victim in five reports drafted between 1994 and 1996, and six times as a caretaker between 1999 and 2008. The details of those cases were redacted.

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