By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Aubrey Kina-Marie Littlejohn, a 15-month-old EBCI tribal member, was pronounced dead at Cherokee Indian Hospital on the morning of Jan. 10, 2011. A little more than a year later, an arrest has been made in her death.
Lady Bird Powell, Littlejohn’s aunt, was arrested on Friday, Feb. 3 by officers of the Swain County Sheriff’s Office and the Cherokee Indian Police Department and charged with Second Degree Murder, First Degree Kidnapping, Extortion, Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia and two counts of Felony Child Abuse.
As of Monday morning, Powell was still in custody at the Swain County Jail and is being held on a $1 million bond. Her 96-hour hearing was scheduled to take place at the jail on Tuesday, Feb. 7.
“This has been one of the hardest cases that we have had to investigate, primarily because of the age of the child,” Swain County Sheriff Curtis A. Cochran said in a statement. “As a parent, it is hard to imagine any child being taken away at such an early age. The law enforcement community is committed to the pursuit of justice and assisting those who cannot help themselves.”
“There has been a great expression of concern from Aubrey’s family members and we want everyone in Swain County to know that we have never stopped working on this case. Detective Carolyn Posey, of the Swain County Sheriff’s Office, is the lead detective and I have great confidence in her and all of the officers of the Swain County Sheriff’s Office. I want to thank each officer that has played a part in this investigation for their hard work and dedication.”
An autopsy report released in May 2011 states the cause of Littlejohn’s death as “Undetermined Sudden Death”.
The report states, “Overall, the findings of the autopsy were nonspecific. There was no evidence of significant acute physical trauma or infection. There were no benzodiazephines, cocaine, ethanol, opiates/opioids, or organic bases detected in the decedent’s blood.”
According to the toxicology report, the only drugs present in Littlejohn’s system were caffeine and Atropine which, according to the autopsy report, is used in resuscitation efforts and is also found in many cold medications.
While the autopsy report was nonspecific about her death, there were questions about hypothermia as Littlejohn’s core temperature was documented the night of her death by Cherokee Indian Hospital officials as 84 degrees Fahrenheit. “The nonspecific findings of hypothermia are not present in this case; however, it is not possible to exclude death from hypothermia,” the report states.