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Eight months after child's death, fate of foster mom still hangs in the balance

TAMPA — The death of a 17-month-old toddler who was weeks away from a possible adoption led to a rash of arrests and questions about the foster care system.

Eight months later, it's still unclear if anyone will be held responsible for the death of little Aedyn Agminalis, who was hospitalized in December with head injuries.

Deputies arrested his foster mom, Latamara Flythe, on Feb. 20, alleging first-degree murder, but prosecutors have not yet filed a formal murder charge in court. A prosecution would hinge on complex medical evidence.

Meanwhile, Aedyn's biological mother and father recently agreed to a deal that will spare them a trial on child neglect charges over their parenting before he entered foster care.

Flythe, 44, was arrested by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office after a two-month investigation. She has since been released on bail.

A case manager reported seeing the child active and alert just seven minutes before Flythe called 911 and told dispatchers that the toddler had slumped forward and was unresponsive. He was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital for Children, where doctors found head injuries along with hemorrhaging of his brain and spinal column.

Given those injuries, doctors told investigators, the boy would not have been able to support his head. That led detectives to conclude that the injury happened after the case manager left.

But the allegations have been complicated by Aedyn's poor health before and after he was taken into foster care.

He was diagnosed as developmentally delayed, and he endured frequent medical complications with three stays in a hospital before the final 911 call. He was hospitalized with flu and fever on Sept. 27 and a feeding tube was implanted Nov. 10 to help him gain weight, hospital records show.

"We're still evaluating and reviewing evidence to see if we can get to a place where we can bring charges," said Rena Frazier, spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office.

Defense attorney Jim Felman said prosecutors have given him time to compile medical records, including those from Kentucky where Aedyn lived with his parents until he was about 5 months old.

Felman also wants security camera footage of Aedyn taken hours before the 911 call. It shows the boy was able to support his head, according to a Hillsborough detective.

"It's given me an opportunity to gather records and put them in front of qualified medical professionals to make sure we have exhausted our efforts to understand what happened," Felman said. "I think everyone recognizes this is a very difficult medical case, and it's simply not clear how and why this child died."

Officials with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said the delay is not unusual for a complex case.

"We have full confidence in the State Attorney's Office," said spokesman Larry McKinnon. "This is a capital offense. They don't want to have anything come back on appeal because they didn't handle the case appropriately."

Aedyn was placed in foster care in September after child protection investigators found a machete, a hookah, a sex toy and a liquor bottle lying on the living room floor and fecal matter smeared on the boy's bedroom walls, carpet, crib and blanket.

His biological parents, Brynn and Amber Agminalis, told investigators they couldn't look after the boy and wanted to put him up for adoption.

It was not until March 3 that deputies arrested and charged the Brandon couple.

The decision to put them into a pretrial diversion program is the right one since Aedyn was not in their custody when he died, said Michael Maddux, the father's attorney.

The deal requires the couple to seek jobs, serve community service, submit to drug and alcohol testing, and to take parenting classes if they have another child during an 18-month probationary period.

"It's a tragedy all the way around, but it wasn't our client's fault," Maddux said. "We're glad we worked it out, and it landed in a spot that works for everybody."

Had all gone according to plan, Aedyn would have been adopted by North Carolina couple Colleen Kochanek and Stephanie Norris, who were chosen by Aedyn's parents. Eight months later, the couple are still trying to find another child to join their daughter Riley, who just started kindergarten.

They knew that Aedyn had serious health issues. But their requests to foster care agencies for copies of his medical records were denied, Kochanek said.

Those same records may now help determine whether Flythe, the foster mom, goes to trial.

"There's an irony there that is troubling," Kochanek said. "My biggest concern is that time will go by and they won't charge anybody."

Contact Christopher O'Donnell at codonnell@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.

Eight months after child's death, fate of foster mom still hangs in the balance 08/29/17 [Last modified: Monday, August 28, 2017 8:50pm]
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