Criminal Justice

Married couple face first-degree murder charges in water-intoxication death of girl, 5

The father and stepmother of a 5-year-old Tennessee girl are facing first-degree murder charges over accusations that they caused her death by forcing her to consume an excessive amount of grape soda and water and failing to seek medical attention when she began to show signs of distress and injury.

The child, Alexa Linboom, was severely brain-damaged and unresponsive when she arrived at a hospital emergency room Jan. 1, 2012, the Times-News reports.

Attorney General Berkeley Bell told the newspaper he hasn’t decided whether to seek the death penalty for Randall Vaughn, 41, and Mary Vaughn, 58. He says they may not have intended to kill Alexa but did intend to injure her. The couple forced her to drink at least four-and-a-half 12-ounce bottles of grape soda, as well as an unknown amount of water in between, as punishment for drinking grape soda after her stepmother told her not to, Bell said.

“Allegedly the child, as a form of punishment, was forced to drink grape drinks, as well as a great deal of water, to the point that her body became water-intoxicated. That led to her brain swelling and all of her systems shutting down, and to her eventual brain death. The punishment was allegedly for stealing a grape drink.”

The article doesn’t include any comment from the Vaughns, who are each being held in lieu of $500,000 bond in the Hawkins County case.

Water intoxication is more commonly an issue for individuals such as long-distance runners, who may suffer injury or even die as the normal balance of electrolytes in the body becomes off-kilter because of over-hydration. Heat and exercise can exacerbate symptoms, and children are more susceptible than adults, medical experts say. Buzzle, The Journal of Clinical Pathology, Pediatrics and St. Louis Children’s Hospital have published articles on the sometimes-overlooked and potentially deadly problem.

Hat tip: Daily Mail.

Related coverage:’ “Grandma, Stepmom Face Murder Case in Death of Girl, 9, Who Ran for Hours as Punishment, Sheriff Says” “Gov’t Seeks Death Penalty for Grandma, Says She Urged Girl, 9, to Run for Hours”

Associated Press: “Bond denied, trial set in Ala. girl’s running death”

Gadsden Times: “Bond denied for Garrard; hearing on dismissal set for February”

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