Tuesday, July 17, 2018
News Roundup

Clearwater infant who drowned in tub was left alone for about five minutes, report states

CLEARWATER — Alan Morris put his young son, Liam, into the family bathtub and ran the water. It was the sort of evening ritual that plays out in homes everywhere, until it wasn't.

Morris left the room to talk to the boy's mother, records show, leaving the 13-month-old infant alone Sept. 28.

Minutes ticked by — "approximately five minutes," a Florida Department of Children and Families report states.

When Morris returned, he found his son submerged.

Pinellas deputies are still investigating the death of the infant, and it's unclear whether the parents, both 34, will face charges.

The DCF report states that investigators found several "loaded" needles containing an unknown substance in a drawer in the Clearwater home.

They also found Suboxone, a prescription medicine used to treat opiate addiction. Neither the mother, Madelynne Joy Barenbrugge, nor Morris had a prescription for the drug, the report states.

The parents did not seem to be impaired, DCF noted. Both refused to submit to a drug screening.

The social services agency was not involved with the family at the time of the boy's death. But DCF Secretary Mike Carroll has assembled a Critical Incident Rapid Response Team to look into the agency's history with the family.

"The loss of Liam is heartbreaking and we will continue to support the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Child Protection Investigation Division in every way we can while they conduct their child death investigation," Carroll said in a statement.

The mother, who also has at least one older child, was the subject of six reports made to the Florida Abuse Hotline from 2009 to 2012.

The father was charged with burglary and possession of heroin as recently as 2015, according to court records. He was ordered to repay $300 and serve 17 months of probation.

Liam was the only child they had in common.

Neither Barenbrugge nor Morris could be reached for comment.

Barenbrugge's brother, Robert Barenbrugge, said the family is still coming to terms with the baby's death.

In May 2010, the mother was charged with child neglect and possession of oxycodone without a prescription after she arrived intoxicated at the Green Parrot Pub on Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa carrying her then-17-month-old daughter.

Barenbrugge had difficulty walking and talking, and she dropped the child, who was caught by another customer in the bar, a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office report states.

She was taken to a hospital where her blood alcohol level tested at 0.249 percent, roughly three times the level at which a driver is presumed to be impaired.

She was sentenced to two years of probation.

According to DCF, Liam was the only child in her care at the time of his death.

Barenbrugge and Morris have been together since March 2013, according to court documents that show a difficult and at times violent relationship.

She filed a restraining order against him in Hillsborough County in 2014 saying he choked her so violently her eyes became bloodshot and that he punched her on the upper body and face, leaving her with a black eye.

In April 2016, she called 911 to report that he punched her and smashed a 50-inch television after accusing her of having an affair, a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office report states.

She was five months pregnant with Liam at the time.

That led to Morris' arrest on charges of threatening a witness and battery of a pregnant female, but the case was later dropped.

Barenbrugge filed another petition for protection in December 2016, this time in Pinellas County, saying that Morris became violent after he lost his job. A jail record that year listed his occupation as carpenter.

Four months later she filed a motion to have her petition dismissed, saying her family pressured her to seek the restraining order.

Senior news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Christopher O'Donnell at [email protected] or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.

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