Crime

Jurors to rule on infant’s death at Fort Mill birthing center

York County Coroner Sabrina Gast in March 2012
York County Coroner Sabrina Gast in March 2012 File

A jury of six people on Thursday will determine the manner of death of a newborn at a Fort Mill birthing center in January, according to the York County Coroner’s Office.

Daxton Lee Green died Jan. 20 shortly after being born at the Carolina Community Maternity Center in Fort Mill. A preliminary autopsy showed no signs of trauma on the baby, but York County Coroner Sabrina Gast on Thursday will ask a jury to determine the manner of the boy’s death with a coroner’s inquest.

“It’s an open public hearing where there are jurors picked from a juror pool,” Gast said. “And they will review witness testimony, documents – everything we have collected during our investigation.”

Few details on the newborn’s death have been released. According to previous reports, the baby was taken from the birthing center to a Charlotte hospital on Jan. 20.

Gast said coroner’s inquests are rare, and that the only other one in the 10 years she’s been coroner was in 2009. Rather than a judge, coroners typically preside over the hearings.

“Most of the time, the coroner can draw those conclusions and it doesn’t need to go to a public hearing,” Gast said. “In this particular case, I feel like it’s better to make the public make that decision.”

Gast said coroners in the United States have five options in ruling the manner of death in a case: Undetermined, natural, suicide, homicide and accidental.

York County jurors on Thursday will have to come to a conclusion based on the information presented during the hearing.

There is no criminal investigation into Green’s death, Gast said. She added that she doesn’t “anticipate any further action at this point.”

“It’ll change the manner on the death certificate,” she said.

Calls to the center Tuesday were not answered.

“As of Feb. 28, the birth center is no longer open for labor and delivery services,” a recorded voice greeting states. “However, the midwives are providing prenatal care and postpartum care to current clients.”

The center’s website indicates the last birth at the facility was Feb. 28.

“We loved serving families at the birth center for the past 5 years!” a message on the website homepage states. It instructs any woman interested in having a midwife attend her homebirth to visit the “Staff” section of the website.

The birthing center had previously been shut down in 2013 after the death of another baby there.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control issued an emergency suspension order for the center in September 2013, citing “various violations of the law,” according to previous reports. That order followed an August 2013 incident during which a baby was delivered with no heartbeat, after the center failed to contact a physician at numerous points during labor. The order also cited the center for previously failing to have a physician on call at all times, as mandated by state law.

The center and DHEC resolved the issues listed in the emergency order, which was lifted in February 2014.

A Rock Hill couple last year filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the center involving another baby. Lee and Katherine Wagner allege the staff at the center provided inadequate care during Katherine Wagner's pregnancy with their daughter, Stacy, who was later stillborn at a hospital after Wagner first went to the center experiencing painful contractions.

Thursday’s hearing will take place at the Moss Justice Center in York. Jury selection begins at 8:30 a.m., and testimony is expected to begin about 10 a.m.

Teddy Kulmala •  803-329-4082

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