Morgan County Sheriff's Department accused of mishandling baby's death investigation

WARTBURG, Tenn. (WVLT)- As the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations continues to look into the death of a Morgan County baby, the Morgan County Sheriff's Department is now accused of mishandling the case.

In a letter from District Attorney General Russell Johnson, he accuses MCSO of not following protocol when it happened.

Tuesday, the sheriff himself countered those accusations saying the DA is making a political statement and this may hinder the case.

"We don't have anything to hide," says Sheriff Freytag.

The letter says this 17-month-old was taken by Child Protective Services in 2013 for suffering a splintered spine. The child returned to mother's custody in May of this year.

The letter says the sheriff's office knew this, the sheriff says otherwise.

"We didn't know ... It would've helped if we had been advised of it," he says, "we would have handled things differently."

The Department of Child Services tells Local 8 News their standard protocol in a situation like this is to work with prosecutors, police and other agencies. They said they worked with law enforcement but could not specify which agency.

The incident happened on June 1st of this year. The sheriff says one deputy and EMS were sent to a home on Longview drive for a child in distress. When interviewing the adults at the home, they told police the child choked on a cookie.

The child was rushed to the hospital and later died.

"There were no marks on the child ... at that point we didn't know we had a crime scene, the child was the crime scene," says Freytag.

An autopsy was done the next day after someone at the hospital noticed severe injuries. The autopsy concluded the child had multiple blunt force injuries, recent and ones that were healing. Contusions of the jaw and face.

The child had contusions, abrasions and lacerations on the lips, a fractured spine along with muscle hemorrhages.

"Before the autopsy, the attorney general asked me, ' Would you like me to send a TBI agent?' I said yes, go ahead and send a TBI agent," the sheriff says since then, TBI has been handling the case.

The letter states MCSO did not collect evidence and didn't assign an investigator.

"What we were looking at was a child that had been choking, and they were doing CPR. We couldn't do anything but assist the EMS to try and save the child's life. That was first and foremost to save this child's life."

The attorney general's office says they are not commenting on this.

No charges have been filed.

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