TAMPA — A foster mother has been arrested in the death of a 17-month-old boy who suffered apparent head injuries just weeks before he was likely to be adopted.
Latamara Stackhouse Flythe was arrested on a charge of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse in the death of Aedyn Agminalis, who died Dec. 11 after he was rushed to St. Joseph's Children's Hospital. The child had been in Flythe's care since September.
Doctors at the hospital noted signs of head trauma in the boy, who was described as being unresponsive. "Findings were very suspicious for non-accidental trauma," a doctor's report stated.
The boy was hooked up to a life-support system, but doctors could find no brain activity, according to Artha Healton, Aedyn's biological mother. He died when doctors turned off the machine.
An autopsy showed "sustained trauma" to the head, which resulted in bleeding inside his brain and led to his death, according to an arrest warrant.
"(She) admits she was the only person with the child during the time the medical professionals opine the injury would have been inflicted," the warrant states.
Flythe, 43, was arrested Feb. 20 and was still in jail as of Monday afternoon. She is denying the charges, according to a court document seeking bail.
At the time of the boy's death, an active investigation of the foster home in Riverview was already under way because of a choking incident on Dec. 4 that led to Aedyn being hospitalized. The child had vomited and a piece of food became lodged in his airway, a Florida Department of Children and Families report states.
He was discharged on Dec. 7 but had to be rushed back to the hospital that same day. On his return, Flythe told doctors at the hospital that the boy had a seizure and was unresponsive, hospital records show.
Flythe is a mother of two children, who were age 15 and 11 at the time she applied to become a foster mom at the beginning of 2016. The children are now with a family friend, according to her uncle, Richard Stackhouse.
He described his niece as a kind, respectful woman and said she was being made a scapegoat because the child welfare system had failed the foster child who, he said, had medical issues.
"There's no way in the world I would believe Latamara would do that," Stackhouse said. "She's someone who thinks she can fix the world with a foster care child."
Flythe, who is divorced, moved to Florida from Virginia about seven years ago. She qualified to be a foster mother in June by passing a background check and taking a 21-hour professional parenting class, according to a DCF report.
Her arrest record lists Children's Home Network as her employer. Its website states that she worked as its marketing and communications manager.
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She was approved as a foster parent by child-placing agency A Door of Hope, a subcontractor of Eckerd Kids, the agency that runs child welfare services in Hillsborough County.
"This case is devastating to us and the hundreds of foster families and social workers who work tirelessly on a daily basis to protect and support children involved in our child welfare system," said Eckerd spokeswoman Adrienne Drew. "We are fully committed to working with all authorities as the case progresses."
Aedyn was taken into foster care in September after a child protective investigator visited his home because of a report made to the state's child abuse hotline.
The investigator found feces on the floor and was also concerned that a hookah pipe and other dangerous objects were within reach of the boy, Healton said. There was also concern that the boy was malnourished.
Healton, the biological mother, said the child was in no danger and that she planned to steam-clean the carpet that night. She and her husband, Brynn Agminalis, had been unable to get the boy to eat solid food and he frequently took his diaper off and defecated on the floor.
They said the foster care system had failed their son.
"Child protective services is supposed to stop this happening," Healton said. "An innocent life was lost because they couldn't do their job."
Healton and Agminalis had agreed to put the child up for adoption and on Nov. 18 signed papers consenting to Aedyn being adopted by Colleen Kochanek and her wife, Stephanie Norris, a North Carolina couple.
The couple were trying to get a placement court hearing that would have allowed them to take Aedyn home even before the adoption was finalized. Had all gone according to plan, the boy likely would have spent Christmas with his new parents.
"I kind of expected this but I'm still shocked," said Kochanek. "I thought I would feel some satisfaction but he's still gone. If this is the person that really hurt him, I want them to be held accountable."
Contact Christopher O'Donnell at email@example.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.