CHARLESTON — A woman who was arrested Wednesday for the death of her 2-year-old son is facing a first-degree murder charge after police said she admitted leaving the infant unattended for three days, leading to his death.
Savannah M. Weiss, 22, of Charleston was charged, according to court records, for knowingly neglecting to provide food, liquid and sanitation to the child, listed in records as “M.J.E,” leading to his death.
Coles County State's Attorney Brian Bower said an autopsy found that the cause of death was dehydration, starvation, or a combination of the two.
Weiss is currently in custody at the Coles County Jail on $1.5 million bond. If convicted, Weiss could receive a sentence of life in prison. Her initial court appearance is set for next Monday.
The boy's body was discovered Monday, when emergency crews responded to a report of an unresponsive child at 1052 First St. in Charleston, Bower said. According to police records in the case, the boy was found in a portable playpen on his side atop a reading pillow among old food and “accrued filth.”
Police also said that the residence was filled with garbage, debris and food, animal feces and unsealed needles, which littered parts of the floor.
Police said Weiss and the boy's grandmother, Mildred Moore, were at the residence at the time police responded. Moore told police she arrived at the home Monday to help with errands when Weiss exited and told her that the boy was dead.
“Moore had to convince Weiss to call 911, quoting Weiss, ‘No, mom we can't,’ and ‘No, I’m gonna go to prison,’” police said.
The police investigation into the incident, which is ongoing, revealed that Weiss had left her residence about 10 a.m. Dec. 1 and did not return until 6 p.m. Sunday, Bower said.
Weiss’s 17-year-old boyfriend, listed as “J.A.B.,” said he picked her up from Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center and took her to a mutual friend’s residence Dec. 1, police said.
Over the weekend, the two made trips to Sarah Bush Lincoln and Jimmy John’s and then back to the friend’s residence before returning to Weiss’ residence Sunday, according to the boyfriend’s account of the weekend.
“During this time, the child was left unattended (in the residence), confined to this playpen with two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a vitamin (water) bottle with a needle-sized hole poked into the cap,” Bower said in a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Police said that Weiss told them she checked on the boy Sunday and observed him facing the television. She believed he was fine, she told police, but "she did not touch, hold or physically make any contact with him."
Weiss initially told police that Emily Snively, 18, of Charleston, referred to in police documents as "Emily S.", was watching the boy while she was away, but later admitted that her son was left alone over the weekend, police said.
Present at the news conference, Snively told reporters she was surprised when she heard of the boy’s death.
“I never suspected anything other than her being a good mother, honestly,” Snively said.
She said she was “disgusted and disappointed” when she heard of the arrest. Snively said she has baby-sat for the child only once before, in October, but has known Weiss for two years.
“He was a normal little boy. Sweet. He liked to cuddle and be loved on,” she said.
During the investigation of the residence, police said they also found two “malnourished” black dogs in a cage. The two dogs were taken by animal control.
Bower said Weiss has had no previous criminal convictions.
However, Moore told police that she has called the Department of Children and Family Services regarding Weiss as recently as August because of “substandard living conditions." Moore also told police that the boy had some medical issues and that Weiss frequently missed medical appointments to treat him.