“The details of this investigation are horrific,” said Police Chief Harry Sewell.
The Charleston, SC Post and Courier (www.postandcourier.com)
MOUNT PLEASANT — A front door wreath decorated with a butterfly and a lady bug said, “Home Sweet Home.” Nearby, a sunflower on a wind chime had the inscription “A friend blesses you with love.” A child’s red bike, a black bucket of multicolored, egg-shaped chalk and a grocery receipt from Thursday were on the porch.
Photo by Wade Spees
The Post and Courier
‘You never know what can go on just around you,’ said Katie McCoy, who lives two doors down from the apartment (blue) where police said Andrew Gordon starved to death.
Charles Lewis Gordon IV and Ashley Nicole Gordon have been charged with homicide by child abuse in the death of their 9-month-old son, Andrew.
By all appearances, nothing was amiss at 1437 Tomota Court. Neighbors said the family living in the apartment seemed normal and happy. But police said something terrible took place behind that door. They said Friday that 9-month-old Andrew Gordon starved to death in his crib on the second floor.
“It’s horrible. You never know what can go on just around you,” said Katie McCoy, who lived two doors down.
The parents, Ashley Nicole Gordon and Charles Lewis Gordon IV, are charged with homicide by child abuse in the death of their youngest son. They were being held at the Charleston County Detention Center.
Both appeared Friday night in magistrate’s court, where a judge referred the case to circuit court because of the seriousness of the charges.
Mark Peper, the Gordons’ attorney, said Andrew had a genetic digestion defect that caused malabsorption of food. The child was having normal bowel movements and was not vomiting, he said. There were no red flags to alert the parents that something was wrong, Peper said.
“This child was very well fed, very well cared for,” he said.
The child received a six-week medical checkup but otherwise had not been to a doctor because the family did not have medical insurance and did not think anything was wrong with their infant, Peper said.
Ashley Gordon, 26, worked part time at CVS pharmacy. Charles Gordon, 29, was an Iraq War veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, Peper said.
“It’s been a very traumatic and trying time for this family,” he said. He noted that the Gordons had successfully raised two older boys, Zachary, 7, and Thomas, 2. The older boys have been placed in the custody of their maternal grandmother.
A neighbor said the older boys appeared normal. The middle brother would hug the oldest when he got off the bus after school.
“It seemed like a nice little happy family. It’s a terrible tragedy,” said neighbor Walker Pickering.
On June 5, police responded to a 911 call from the parents that their youngest child had stopped breathing. Zachary Gordon found Andrew not breathing in his crib and told his parents, Peper said. Andrew died that day at East Cooper Regional Medical Center.
Police said the first floor the home was in disarray and the father was crying on the couch. An officer smelled urine and feces as he took the two older brothers upstairs to their room, where old food and soiled clothing were on the floor, according to a police report.
Andrew’s crib was soiled and scattered with bottles. He was down to 6 pounds 9 ounces from his birth weight of 8 pounds 4 ounces. The parents had never taken him to a doctor, police said. “The details of this investigation are horrific,” said Police Chief Harry Sewell.
Affidavits charge the Gordons with homicide by child abuse. The couple failed to supply the child with adequate food and health care, which caused physical injury or condition resulting in his death, according to the affidavits.
If convicted, the Gordons could be sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, said 9th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Debbie Herring-Lash.
The cause of death for Andrew Gordon was officially listed as marasmus, which means malnutrition or starvation because of inadequate feeding, according to Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten.
She said the infant suffered tremendous weight loss. “This was not some accidental event or natural event,” Wooten said.
Neighbor Antherenette Wade said she spoke with Ashley Gordon after Andrew died and was told that the child had a genetic condition that proved fatal. The other brothers played outside and appeared fine and healthy.
Charles Gordon stayed at home and always met the bus for the oldest son when he came home from school, Wade said.
On her MySpace page, Ashley Gordon lists her occupation as pharmacy technician and describes herself as a Catholic, a proud parent and a native of Fayetteville, N.C. The page has dozens of family pictures.
On Feb. 11, 2008, she wrote that she was having trouble getting over the guilt of not being able to save the life of a woman who was shot in the head by a man who later killed himself.
She also offers so-called tips on how to get the best service at a pharmacy, and blogs about being fed up with school violence. “It seems like every time I decide to read the news (which is rare) that something terrible has happened (hence why I don’t read it.)”