TEXARKANA — A Fouke, Arkansas, couple are facing second-degree murder and child endangerment charges in the alleged neglect last year of their 7-month-old twins.
Crystal Morrow, 24, and Dustin Harley, 19, were charged with manslaughter at the time of their arrests in February in the Sept. 27 death of their daughter, 7-month-old Kimberly, and with endangering the welfare of a minor involving Kimberly’s twin brother. Miller County prosecutors recently upped the charges in Kimberly’s death to second-degree murder while formally charging the couple with child endangerment for the alleged neglect of their son.
The boy and three older children living in the home at the time of Kimberly’s death are in foster care, according to a probable cause affidavit. Kimberly allegedly died of severe neglect and her brother’s dire condition was attributed to the same.
When deputies responded to the house Sept. 27 in the 3400 block of Miller County 9, they found Kimberly not breathing and her twin in acute distress. Randy McAdams, a first responder and Texarkana, Arkansas, police officer, was able to revive Kimberly briefly but she died before a LifeNet helicopter arrived.
Investigators noted that the day crib the babies shared was placed in a room with piles of laundry. As investigators photographed the children’s bed, roaches allegedly crawled on the walls and in the crib.
Morrow allegedly claimed she’d given both infants bottles at 5 a.m. that morning and the evening before, but medical professionals noted signs of severe dehydration and malnutrition. The infants’ grandfather had come to the house shortly before the emergency call for help was made.
Miller County Coroner Dakota Bloyd allegedly noted dried secretions around Kimberly’s eyes, nose, mouth and ears; she was wearing a heavily soiled diaper; and she had dirty fingernails. An autopsy allegedly found Kimberly’s body ranked in less than the fifth percentile for her age and gender, that her eyes were sunken, her fontanel was depressed, her muscles were wasting and her ribs were protruding.
According to the affidavit, a doctor at Arkansas Children’s Hospital told investigators, “Any caregiver in the home with (the infant boy) and his twin would be expected to recognize the child was scientifically sick and in need of immediate care.”
Bail for both Morrow and Harley has been set at $50,000. They are currently being held in the Miller County jail.
Morrow’s case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson while Harley’s is assigned to Circuit Judge Brent Haltom. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell is handling the cases for the state.
As both defendants are in jail, their cases should move forward despite the pandemic. Dates for their arraignment hearings have not been set.
Second-degree murder is punishable by six to 30 years in prison and a fine up to $15,000. Endangering the welfare of a minor is punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.