Kingsport Times News Sunday, April 20, 2014

News Crime Local News

Prosecutor: Forced soda, water consumption led to Hawkins child's death

February 6th, 2014 6:41 am by Jeff Bobo

Prosecutor: Forced soda, water consumption led to Hawkins child's death

Randall Lee Vaughn and Mary Lavonne Vaughn.

UPDATE: 8:10 p.m.

SURGOINSVILLE — A Hawkins County couple have been charged with murder for allegedly causing the death of their 5-year-old child in 2012 by forcing her to drink an excessive amount of grape soda and water as punishment.

The victim, Alexa Linboom, was allegedly being punished for taking some of her stepmother’s grape soda after being told not to.

Attorney General Berkeley Bell told the Times-News that the child’s biological father and stepmother forced her to drink as many as 4.5 12-ounce bottles of grape soda, as well as an unknown amount of water.

“They also failed to take care of the child once she was injured,” Bell said. “Our position is it was a matter of several hours after the child started exhibiting serious symptoms, after the child was screaming out in pain, went into a paralyzed state, and became unconscious.” 

Randall Lee Vaughn, 41,and Mary Lavonne Vaughn, 58, both of 319 Ridge Haven Drive, Surgoinsville, were named in sealed Hawkins County grand jury indictments Monday charging them each with first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated child neglect, aggravated child abuse.

On Jan. 1, 2012, the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office was notified that a 5-year-old child identified as Alexa Linboom had been brought to the Hawkins County Memorial Hospital emergency room in Rogersville unresponsive by her father, Randall Vaughn, and his wife, Mary Vaughn.

Alexa Linboom was airlifted the same day to Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City, where she passed away on Jan. 3, 2012.

An autopsy was performed by the Quillen College of Medicine’s Department of Forensic Pathology in Johnson City.

Following a two-year investigation into the death of Alexa Linboom, it was determined that the cause of death was acute fluid/water intoxication causing hyponatremic encephalopathy.

That occurs when sodium levels drop excessively low, allowing excess water to enter brain cells and cause swelling.

The child’s death was ruled a homicide.

“Allegedly the child, as a form of punishment, was forced to drink grape drinks, as well as a great deal of water, to the point that her body became water intoxicated,” Bell said. “That led to her brain swelling and all of her systems shutting down, and to her eventual brain death. The punishment was allegedly for stealing a grape drink. I don’t know exactly how much liquid she drank , but there was 4.5 12-ounce drinks plus water in-between.” 

Six children including the victim lived in the Vaughn household at the time of the child’s death. Police said they are now in foster care. The biological mother of the victim reportedly lives out of state.

Bell said there is no previous history of abuse on the record in the Vaughn household.

“They did employ some alternative forms of punishment, and I’ll just leave it at that,” Bell added.

Bell said this case falls under the “Scotty Trexler Law” which makes it a first-degree murder case when a child dies as a result of child abuse. He said he has not yet decided whether or not to seek the death penalty.

Bell added, “They treated this child so cruelly that it caused the child to die. I don’t know if their intent was to kill the child, but their intent certainly was to harm the child.” 

The Vaughns are being held in the Hawkins County Jail on a $500,000 bond each, which was set by Criminal Court Judge John Dugger. They are scheduled to appear in Hawkins County Criminal Court in Rogersville on Friday at 9 a.m.

UPDATE: 2:20 p.m.

SURGOINSVILLE — A Hawkins County couple have been charged with murder for allegedly causing the death of their 5-year-old child in 2012 by forcing her to drink an excessive amount of grape soda and water as punishment.

The victim, Alexa Linboom, was allegedly being punished for taking some of her stepmother’s grape soda after being told not to.

Attorney General Berkeley Bell told the Times-News that the child’s biological father and stepmother forced her to drink as many as 4.5 12-ounce bottles of grape sodas, as well as an unknown amount of water.

“They also failed to take care of the child once she was injured,” Bell said. “Our position is it was a matter of several hours after the child started exhibiting serious symptoms, after the child was screaming out in pain, went into a paralyzed state, and became unconscious.”

Randall Lee Vaughn, 41,and Mary Lavonne Vaughn, 58, both of 319 Ridge Haven Drive, Surgoinsville, were named in sealed Hawkins County grand jury indictments Monday charging them both with first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated child neglect and aggravated child abuse.

On Jan. 1, 2012, the Hawkins County Sheriff's Office was notified that a 5-year-old child identified as Alexa Linboom was brought to the Hawkins County Memorial Hospital emergency room in Rogersville unresponsive by her father, Randall Vaughn, and his wife, Mary Vaughn.

Alexa Linboom was airlifted the same day to Niswonger Children's Hospital in Johnson City, where she passed away on Jan. 3, 2012.
An autopsy was performed by the Quillen College Medicine's Department of Forensic Pathology in Johnson City.

Following a two year investigation into the death of Alexa Linboom, it was determined that the cause of death was acute fluid/water intoxication causing hyponatremic encephalopathy, and ruled a homicide.

That occurs when sodium levels drop excessively low, allowing excess water to enter brain cells and cause swelling.

“Allegedly the child, as a form of punishment, was forced to drink grape drinks, as well as a great deal of water, to the point that her body became water intoxicated,” Bell said. “That led to her brain swelling and all of her systems shutting down, and to her eventual brain death. The punishment was allegedly for stealing a grape drink. I don’t know exactly how much liquid she drank , but there were 4.5 12 ounce drinks plus water in-between.”

Six children including the victim lived in the Vaughn household at the time of the child's death. Police said they are now in foster care. The biological mother of the victim reportedly lives out of state.

Bell said there is no previous history of abuse on the record in the Vaughn household.

“They did employ some alternative forms of punishment, and I’ll just leave it at that,” Bell added.

Bell said this case falls under the “Scotty Trexler Law” which makes it a first-degree murder case when a child dies as a result of child abuse. He said he has not yet decided whether or not to see the death penalty.

Bell added, “They treated this child so cruelly that it caused the child to die. I don’t know if their intent was to kill the child, but their intent certainly was to harm the child.”

The Vaughns are being held in the Hawkins County Jail, on a $500,000 bond each, which was set by Criminal Court Judge John Dugger. They are scheduled to appear in Hawkins County Criminal Court in Rogersville on Friday at 9 a.m.


Additional Photos

comments powered by Disqus