Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas deputies arrest Largo father of 1-year-old who died in bathtub

LARGO — The water had risen to the edge of the tub, over the rim and onto the floor before Alan Morris remembered to check on his 13-month-old.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri recounted Thursday how Morris went from the bedroom to the bathroom across the hallway of the home near Largo.

When he got there, baby Liam was floating on his back, water from the faucet pouring onto his face. He was pronounced dead that evening.

Deputies would serve a search warrant weeks later to find out how long it takes to fill the tub: depending on the nozzle setting, eight to 23 minutes.

"That's beyond careless," Gaultieri said during a news conference. "That's criminal."

Deputies on Thursday arrested Morris, 34, on an aggravated manslaughter charge for his role in the Sept. 28 incident. He is being held without bail at the Pinellas County Jail.

The child's mother, 34-year-old Madelynne Barenbrugge, doesn't face charges, as there was no indication she knew the child was in danger, Gaultieri said.

The evening started normally. Morris returned home about 7 p.m. from his construction job. The family ate dinner together.

The parents each took a shower in the home's one bathroom. Then Morris put Liam in the tub, turned on the water and plugged the drain, the sheriff said.

Morris went across into the bedroom, where Barenbrugge had gone after she got out of the shower. The two gave conflicting statements about what happened next, but the gist was that they were talking, Gualtieri said.

The infant had taken his first steps just the night before, the sheriff said, and didn't have the strength to stabilize himself in the tub. By the time Morris heard the water overflowing, it was too late.

The father was "extremely remorseful," Gualtieri said. But later the parents refused to meet for interviews with detectives.

The night of the incident, deputies also found marijuana in the house, along with methadone and Suboxone, medication used to treat opiate addiction. Neither parent had prescriptions. They would not consent to drug tests, the sheriff said.

Court records show several petitions for protection and domestic violence incidents between the couple. Gualtieri said one of those incidents was in December 2016, when Liam was living with them.

Liam's case is reminiscent of a father who left his toddler in a hot truck last year. Troy Whitaker, a Hillsborough firefighter, faced the same charge — aggravated manslaughter — in the death of his young son, Lawson.

The state Attorney's Office dropped the charge, saying the father didn't show "intentional disregard."

Gualtieri, agreeing the case was similar, said he made his decision independently of what he thinks prosecutors will do.

"I . . . feel extremely strongly about it that our obligation is to the kid, our obligation is to that dead baby and to make sure someone is a voice for that child," he said.

Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or kvarn@tampabay.com. Follow @kathrynvarn.

Pinellas deputies arrest Largo father of 1-year-old who died in bathtub 10/12/17 [Last modified: Thursday, October 12, 2017 8:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Southeast Seminole Heights holds candlelight vigil for victims' families and each other

    News

    TAMPA — They came together in solidarity in Southeast Seminole Heights, to sustain three families in their grief and to confront fear, at a candlelight vigil held Sunday night in the central Tampa neighborhood.

    A peaceful march that began on east New Orleans Avenue was held during the candlelight vigil for the three victims who were killed in the recent shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa on Sunday, October 22, 2017.
  2. It's not just Puerto Rico: FEMA bogs down in Florida, Texas too

    HOUSTON — Outside Rachel Roberts' house, a skeleton sits on a chair next to the driveway, a skeleton child on its lap, an empty cup in its hand and a sign at its feet that reads "Waiting on FEMA."

    Ernestino Leon sits among the debris removed from his family’s flood-damaged Bonita Springs home on Oct. 11. He has waited five weeks for FEMA to provide $10,000 to repair the home.
  3. McConnell says he's awaiting Trump guidance on health care

    STERLING, Va. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he's willing to bring bipartisan health care legislation to the floor if President Donald Trump makes clear he supports it.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s “not certain yet” on what Trump wants.
  4. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.
  5. Jones: Where are the difference-makers on the Bucs defense?

    Bucs

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — They can't tackle. They can't cover. They can't pressure the quarterback, let alone sack him.

    Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) scrambles past Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (98) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]