COLUMBIA CITY — Family members mourning the loss of a five-month-old baby girl who died Jan. 3 say their grief is compounded by the knowledge that the child’s death might have been prevented.
“This whole tragedy with my niece could have been avoided had the county officials listened to our family and taken our warnings seriously,” said Miranda Minear, whose sister Janel Creech is currently incarcerated on drug charges that were a result of a 911 call Jan. 3.
As a result of that call, Creech’s baby daughter Taylor was taken to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Police found evidence of a methamphetamine lab in the home and charges have been filed against Creech and 21-year-old Travis Wonderly, who remains at large.
Pending results of the baby’s autopsy, no charges have been filed in her death.
Creech’s sisters, Minear and Michele Freewalt, told The Post & Mail they tried for several months to get the Probation Department to intervene on behalf of Creech’s child.
“As soon as there was a baby involved, everyone should have kicked into high gear,” said Freewalt.
Minear contacted Probation Officer Doug Jones via e-mail on Nov. 11.
In that e-mail, Minear expressed concern that her sister, who was on probation for a burglary conviction, was abusing drugs.
Freewalt followed up the e-mail Nov. 12 with a phone call and talked to Jones.
“I have some extreme concern for her (Creech) as well as her daughter (Taylor),” wrote Minear to Jones Nov. 11. ”She is on the same downward spiral, as has happened in the past, and our family does not know what to do. “
Minear told Jones that while visiting Creech’s home, she was “pretty sure” she had seen “some products for making meth.”
Minear described to Jones large bubbled up burns on the countertop as well as on the kitchen floor.
The Post & Mail contacted the Probation Department this morning and talked to Chief Probation Officer Amy Motter.
Motter said a warrant was issued against Creech for violation of probation Dec. 30, exactly seven weeks after Minear’s e-mail.
Motter said she would consult with Whitley County Circuit Court Judge James Heuer, who oversees the Probation Department, and get back to The Post & Mail as soon as possible.
Minear and Freewalt both said that while they waited for county officials to act, they intervened whenever possible, which entailed volunteering to babysit Taylor.
“We were waiting and waiting for something to be done and trying to watch Taylor as much as possible,” said Freewalt.
The sisters said that while they’re heartbroken over the loss of their niece, their only interest in telling their story is to get answers, and so something positive can come out of the tragedy that transpired Jan. 3 at 730 Camden Drive in Columbia City.
“We would be interested in hearing why they (the Probation Department) did what they did, which was nothing,” said Minear.
“We certainly want to know, the family wants to know,” said Freewalt. “There has to be something that other families can do because what we tried to do didn’t work.”
The sisters said while they stayed available to watch their niece whenever possible, the availability began to diminish as their sister’s drug use became heavier and heavier.
Creech’s alleged paranoia was aggravated, according to Minear and Freewalt, when a representative of the Division of Family and Children stopped by Creech’s residence and left a business card. The sisters said Creech became more and more suspicious of them and quit calling on them to watch the baby.
“She was highly paranoid that we were going to take (Taylor) away from her,” said Minear.
“After that (the visit by DFC), Janel was so overly paranoid that she wouldn’t allow any of us to care for Taylor for at least the next month or so. “
Minear said the knowledge that the child’s death might have been avoidable makes the loss more profound.
“We only want to grieve for the loss of that poor innocent child, but it is harshly overshadowed by the ignorance of many county officials that had ample time and information to avoid this type of end,” said Minear.
“We as a family want to make sure this doesn’t happen to someone else.”
Motter told The Post & Mail this morning that a response would not be available from the Probation Department by press time.
She added she hoped to have a response prepared in time for a follow-up article in Friday’s Post & Mail.