Shortly after child protection investigators received reports that Carter James Turcanu’s mother was spending most of her money on drugs — leaving her children hungry — Carter was found dead in his parents’ Stock Island home.
Carter’s death remains under investigation by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, and authorities would not disclose the results of an autopsy that was performed last week. Police reports say Carter’s mother, Marcia Ann Hake, told authorities she left Carter on a couch to sleep, and later found him there unresponsive. Reports said police were considering the possibility that Carter was accidentally smothered while asleep on the couch — a sleeping arrangement that is unsafe for infants.
“The crib is stacked with clothing and other articles,” a DCF report states. “There are concerns on how safe or comfortable the baby was in the home.”
Carter’s family, sources told the Miami Herald, had a long history with the state Department of Children & Families, including two child abuse hotline reports within a couple of months of the boy’s death. A brief DCF incident report said agency lawyers were in the process of asking a judge to oversee the family, which was receiving services from Healthy Start and other better-parenting programs.
Carter’s death comes at a difficult time for DCF, which has struggled to stanch a wave of child deaths, many of them violent, among families with a prior agency history. Last month, the Herald published a series of stories, called Innocents Lost, detailing the deaths by neglect or abuse of 477 children whose families had been known to DCF. Lawmakers, in their last week of the state’s annual session, are considering sweeping legislation to better protect children who have been abused or neglected.
Sheriff’s deputies were called on April 24 at 7 a.m. to the trailer Hake shared with her father, James Hake, 51, and a 24-year-old man named James Michael Sapp, whose relationship to the Hakes was not specified. Carter was already en route to Lower Keys Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
When deputies arrived, “the mother was still hysterical and crying,” a report said.
Marcia Hake told police she placed her 9-month-old son on a couch near the trailer’s door, and covered him with a blanket. “The living room and kitchen areas were cluttered and messy,” a report said.
DCF’s incident report on Carter’s death said the “suspected cause of [death] is unsafe co-sleeping” — meaning Carter may have suffocated after being placed on the couch, possibly next to his mother, in a dangerous manner.
Carter’s two siblings were staying with relatives after the infant’s death, a report said.
“There is a history with DCF involving environmental hazards and substance issues by...the mother,” the incident report said.
A hotline report in March said that Marcia Hake was abusing pills that were not prescribed to her, and had no money to buy food because her cash was spent on drugs.
A report the month before said Hake was not supervising her children, who were seen running around the neighborhood, and she was stumbling from apparent drug use. Hake’s children, the report alleged, were always hungry.
Both Marcia Hake, 27, and her father have been arrested several times. James Hake was charged three times with battery or aggravated assault, most recently in 2006, and once for cocaine possession. Marcia Hake’s criminal history includes a 2010 DUI, a petty larceny and two probation violations.
Four days after her son died, Hake was arrested again, for grand theft and drug possession.
Before noon that day, police said, Hake left the Shades R Us sunglasses shop in Key West with two pairs of designer sunglasses she did not pay for. A store clerk followed her down Duval Street, and noticed Hake was wearing one of the pairs of glasses. The other pair was in her purse. Police say Hake gave the glasses back to the store clerk, but was arrested after acknowledging she took the glasses, worth $488.
Hake said she accidentally left with the glasses.
Hake also had hand-rolled cigarettes that contained a synthetic marijuana known as Spice, which she told police she smoked because the substance doesn’t show up in drug tests as marijuana does. A police report said she also had seven so-called “Xanny bars” — white, oblong Xanax pills that are used to treat anxiety. “She confirmed she does not have a current prescription for them,” a police report said.
Cammy Clark, the Miami Herald’s Keys correspondent, contributed to this report.