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Toddler dies in Clearwater after choking on sunflower seeds

CLEARWATER — Toddler Stephan Talley had a habit of running up to people, even strangers, expecting a hug.

"He wanted everybody to hold him," said his mother, Kimberly Talley, 19.

Friday, Talley faced a future without Stephan.

Authorities believe the 16-month-old boy choked to death accidentally after putting a handful of sunflower seeds in his mouth late Thursday night.

Michael Hamilton, 20, is Stephan's father. He and Kimberly are not romantic partners, but the child was in Hamilton's care Thursday while Kimberly worked.

Pinellas County sheriff's deputies responded to a 911 call around 11:30 p.m. from 15641 Morgan St., Clearwater.

Authorities said Stephan was with a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old child in a bedroom while Hamilton was in the home with other members of the family. He told investigators he was regularly checking on the children.

One of the older kids told Hamilton that Stephan had something in his mouth. Investigators said Hamilton found the boy unresponsive after he apparently attempted to eat a handful of sunflower seeds.

Hamilton and another family member began CPR, authorities said, and Stephan began breathing. When paramedics arrived, they continued to clear seeds from the boy's mouth.

Stephan was rushed to All Children's Hospital, but his condition worsened and he was rerouted to Largo Medical Center, which was closer.

Just after midnight, the boy was pronounced dead. Authorities suspect the death, which remains under investigation, was an accident. An autopsy will be performed.

Hamilton greeted a reporter at the door of the Morgan Street house early Friday. His eyes welled with tears, he declined to comment.

Kimberly Talley didn't want to publicly discuss whether she felt Hamilton was in any way responsible for Stephan's death, but said she didn't expect to ever speak with him again.

As she faced cleaning out Stephan's room, getting rid of diapers and toys, she held the books he most liked to be read: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

She hopes to scrounge together enough money from friends and family to bury Stephan next to his grandmother at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Clearwater.

Friday morning, Talley bought two black suits with white vests for Stephan.

"One to bury him in and one to keep," Talley said. "I want what my son was buried in."

Will Van Sant can be reached at vansant@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4166.

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Toddler dies in Clearwater after choking on sunflower seeds 07/03/09 [Last modified: Monday, July 6, 2009 10:35am]
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