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Toddler's mom arrested in drowning accident

(ran PW, PS editions of Pasco Times)

A Spring Hill mother whose 18-month-old son drowned in the family's swimming pool last month was arrested on Thursday after investigators determined that she failed to provide the level of supervision that could have saved the toddler's life.

Lisa Slawinski, 32, a housewife who lives at 1027 Tryon Circle, was charged with child neglect, a third-degree felony, after investigators concluded their monthlong probe into the Dec. 29 drowning of Matthew Slawinski.

Slawinski was being held at Hernando County Jail in lieu of $5,000 bail.

For four weeks, as investigators tried to determine whether Slawinski had been negligent in supervising her two sons' play around the in-ground swimming pool, they said little publicly about the incident.

In announcing the arrest Thursday, however, authorities detailed the series of events that they said led to Matthew's death. They also said Slawinski had given inconsistent statements during their investigation, particularly about her actions.

According to an arrest report, Slawinski first told investigators that she had lost sight of Matthew for five minutes while searching the Internet in the family's living room. She later recanted her statement, saying that it could have been as much as 15 minutes, the report stated.

As she remained on the computer, Slawinski told investigators, she asked her 5-year-old son Joseph for his younger brother. Joseph told his mother that he did not know where Matthew was. He then looked in the last place he recalled seeing him: the pool, the report said.

Joseph found Matthew floating in the water and told his mother, who made a frantic 911 call, the report said.

Matthew was later pronounced dead at Spring Hill Regional Hospital.

During the investigation, a witness, whose identity is being withheld by the Sheriff's Office, told detectives that she had warned Slawinski on several occasions that one of her children would be injured if she continued to leave the rear sliding door open.

She also told authorities that Slawinski would laugh when she told her that one of the children had fallen into the pool before.

Other witnesses said that Matthew and Joseph were seen throwing toys into the pool and leaning over from the pool deck to retrieve the toys on the day of the incident, the report said.

Family friends, however, told a different story about Slawinski's care of her children.

"I feel totally terrible," Gia Arcarola, a 34-year-old mother of three recently told the St. Petersburg Times. "It's a very warm and caring family."

Arcarola recalled how Slawinski rushed to Matthew's aid when he had been stung by bees and went into anaphylactic shock.

"The doctors said that if she would have waited any longer, (Matthew) would have died," Arcarola said. "(The pool) was just an accident."

Anthony Slawinski, Matthew's father, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

"We all recognize that accidents happen, but we also recognize that some accidents can be prevented," sheriff's spokesman Lt. Joseph Paez said Thursday. "This accident falls into the latter category."

Three infants drowned in residential swimming pools in Hernando County during 2003. In Florida, accidental drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1-4. In 2002, 67 children in that age range drowned, according to Felipe Luaces, a researcher from the state Department of Health.