Blanco baby dies, mother and boyfriend jailed

Jamie Petronlella and John Lawrence
Left: Jamie Petronella and John Lawrence (Blanco County Sheriff's Office)

BLANCO, Texas (KXAN) — A mother and her boyfriend are charged with injury to a child after her baby was found unresponsive and not breathing in their Blanco apartment Tuesday night.

Blanco police say they received a 911 call around 6 p.m. from the couple stating their 1-year-old girl stopped breathing. When emergency crews arrived, they found the baby lying on the floor. The baby was flown by a medical helicopter to a hospital in San Antonio where she was placed on life support. The Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office says the child, 15-month-old Sunny Dakota Slade-Bort, died Thursday morning.

Blanco Chief of Police Michael Ritchey says this is the worst child abuse case he has worked in the city of Blanco. “The officer approached me and said there is just something not right about this, the baby had bruising to the face and lower jaw and one side of her head,” said Ritchey.

The mother, 23-year-old Jamie Petronella, along with her boyfriend, John Lawrence, were originally arrested on an unrelated charge. Police say the couple’s charges have not been upgraded at this time.

GOING IN-DEPTH

Statewide child deaths from abuse/neglect:

  • 2015: 171
  • 2014: 151
  • 2013: 156

Child deaths by abuse/neglect in Austin region:

  • 2015: 16
  • 2014: 22

While investigating the baby’s injuries, police determined two other children in the home, a 2-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy, also had various injuries. Ritchey says the boy has cerebral hemorrhage and the toddler has bruising; both are being treated at a hospital. Authorities say hospital staff do believe the children suffered physical and sexual abuse.

“It’s just horrific; it’s hard to deal with when you see that one year old laying on the floor,” said Ritchey. He adds that the couple was unemotional when interviewed by police. “I didn’t think they were overly concerned, they had to basically be asked to go to the hospital and see their children.”

A spokesperson for Child Protective Services says the family has a history with CPS. Most recently, CPS was called to investigate a broken arm on the 3-year-old on April 27. The agency is currently in the process of removing the two older children from the home.

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