A single North Carolina mother is facing child abuse charges two months after her toddler son accidentally got stuck in an airport escalator and fell to his death.
On Sept. 25, Jiterria Lightner was traveling alone with her 3-year-old son, Jaiden Cowart, as well as her two other kids. While waiting for their luggage at the baggage claim area of Charlotte Douglas International Airport (the family had just returned from a trip to Florida), Jaiden leaned on the glass of an escalator. That’s when he got caught in the escalator’s handrail, began being pulled up and fell, local outlets WSOC-TV and The Charlotte Observer report.
Jaiden was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died.
“This has been one of the hardest things any parent has had to endure,” the family wrote on its GoFundMe page.
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On Tuesday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police issued warrants for his mother’s arrest. She is facing charges of misdemeanor child abuse.
“We went from saying this is an accident, [to] now saying that you’ve committed a crime,” Michael Greene, Jaiden’s mother’s attorney, told WSCO-TV.
“She’s a single mother that was watching three children at an airport, and I think the circumstances could have happened to a number of us,” Greene said to WCNC.
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Greene feels charges were filed against his client because police thought she wasn’t properly supervising her three children at the time of her son’s accident.
“She was caring for a 4-, 3- and 2-year-old and trying to arrange a ride from the airport,” Greene told the station. “I’m here saying she’s not guilty of misdemeanor child abuse.”
Jaiden’s death was ruled an accident by a medical examiner. His cause of death was listed as “blunt force injuries due to a fall from a height,” according to WCNC.
Greene told WSCO-TV that he and his client are fighting the charges.
“This is one of those incidents that could’ve happened to any one of the members of this community, and, unfortunately, the decision came down to charge her with a crime. And I’ll be here to walk her through the process,” he said.
Jaiden’s family described him as an “energetic, loving and playful 3-year-old with a witty sense of humor and an appetite for fun and adventure,” according to the GuFundMe page.
They shared that the little boy loved watching Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol and PJ Masks.