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Three charged in 2018 drowning death of child

BY Samantha Oyler - soyler@chronicle-tribune.com

Three Marion family members are being charged in connection to the 2018 death of a 2-year-old girl.

According to court documents, Karla K. Donaldson, 56, is being charged with neglect of a dependent resulting in death, a Level 1 felony, neglect of a dependent, a Level 6 felony, and possession of methamphetamine, a Level 6 felony.

Court documents also state Daniel R. Donaldson, 59, and Kevin D. Donaldson, 29, are each being charged with two counts of neglect of a dependent, a Level 6 felony.

All three individuals had active warrants associated with these charges as of deadline Wednesday.

The initial incident happened on July 11, 2018, according to court documents, while the victim and her brother were visiting their father, Kevin, for a couple of weeks.

John Kauffman, chief investigator with the Grant County Prosecutor’s Office, said that Kevin and his father Daniel lived together and also worked together at Weaver Popcorn at the time.

Kauffman said both Kevin and Daniel often worked 12-hour shifts, so they needed someone to watch the children while they were away.

They reportedly allowed Karla, Kevin’s mom, to watch the children, according to Kauffman. He said both Kevin and Daniel knew that Karla used methamphetamine.

Karla was interviewed about the incident and said that as she was preparing supper, the victim’s brother was playing on a tablet and the victim continuously asked for cups of water to go out and water the flowers, according to a probable cause affidavit filed Nov. 4.

Karla said that 10-15 minutes had passed with the victim being out of sight, according to court documents, and Karla then found the girl floating face down in the pool.

Karla said she pulled the girl out of the pool, noting she was “like a ragdoll,” and had the victim’s brother bring her the phone to call 911, according to court reports.

Kauffman said the victim was taken to Marion General Hospital and later flown to Riley Children’s Hospital for treatment.

According to Kauffman, the victim showed no signs of brain activity, but was being kept on life support until her mother could fly in from her home in North Carolina.

Court documents state that medical reports from Riley Children’s Hospital and Marion General Hospital determined the victim had been immersed in the water for longer than 10-15 minutes like Karla claimed.

Both Daniel and Kevin are being charged for not securing the pool and for leaving the children under the care of someone under the influence of methamphetamine.

Although the case was originally declined by the former prosecutor’s administration due to a lack of evidence, current Prosecutor Rodney Faulk said he and his team were determined to see it to the end.

“We felt the case cried out for justice,” Faulk said.

During the initial investigation, Karla told the authorities that the last time she’d used methamphetamine was a few days prior to the incident, on July 8.

Kauffman said that the drug screening taken after the incident showed high levels of the drug in her system, indicating she’d used more recently.

Court records state that during a later interview, Karla admitted not only to using meth the day of the incident, but also to smoking more meth while she was babysitting the children.

Kevin recalled that he gave Karla $20 that day, which he suspects might have been used to buy drugs, according to court records.

Documents also state that Kevin confronted Karla about the incident in August of 2018, asking if she’d gotten high the day of the incident. Kevin claims that he and another person witnessed Karla admit to getting high before babysitting the children.

According to the affidavit, the victim’s mother claimed she specifically told Kevin not to leave the children with Karla, a known drug user, but instead take the children to some relatives in Muncie that would babysit for free.

The affidavit also states that Karla claims she and Daniel had the same drug supplier and Daniel knew prior to asking Karla to babysit that she was a drug user.

According to the affidavit, Karla broke down crying in an interview, saying that every time she closes her eyes, she sees the victim and that she cannot imagine what the victim’s mother went through.