Detectives say asphyxiation cause of 13-month old's death

4 In Your Corner examines foster care screening
Posted at 6:42 PM, Aug 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-03 07:34:00-04

Experts are weighing in on foster care and the adoption process after a Cape Coral man is accused of murdering the child in his care.

Detectives say the victim, 13-month old Mackenzie Fewox died of asphyxiation. She was in the process of being adopted by her uncle, Dustin Todd, and his wife.

Todd is now charged with second-degree murder, accused of suffocating the baby.

Documents obtained by Four In Your Corner show both of Mackenzie's parents are believed to be in jail. Her mother is listed as detained in DeSoto County. Letters were sent to family members and Todd and his wife responded and courts approved the couple to foster.

Detectives say the 13-month old had acid reflux and multiple witnesses confirmed she was known to cry often. When she would cry, witnesses said Todd often yelled at Mackenzie when she cried and seemed quite unattached.

Four In Your Corner spoke to neighbors who say Todd voluntarily left the home after Mackenzie's death back in January.

"If there's anything that gives us a red flag or alarms us we do not proceed," Nadare Salim, the CEO of Children's Family Network said.

Salim says that in general, it is a very detailed vetted process for people to qualify to foster or provide kinship care.

"We require a 10-week, 3 hours per week training, we also do reference checks, we go into the home and do a home inspection," she said.

However, even with thorough checks, there are rare cases like of 13-month old Mackenzie.

"A tragedy like this is like a punch in the gut," Salim said. "There are bad characters out there. Sometimes people are really good at hiding it. Any behavior that puts children at risk is absolutely unacceptable and we strive to ensure are children are placed in safe home."

The Department of Children and Families has not confirmed whether or not they have had any prior involvement with the family. A spokesperson sent out this statement to FOX 4:

"Our hearts are broken by the loss of Mackenzie and we will continue to support law enforcement in any way possible to hold anyone responsible for her death accountable. DCF's investigation remains open at this time."

A judge has ordered Todd not to have contact with any children. He is due back in court this Saturday