Parents Charged in Death of 5-Year-Old Who Was Forced to Drink Soda as Punishment

We can debate about corporal punishment all day long, but sometimes there’s no doubt when a case crosses about a mile over the line from punishment to abuse. For example, if the kid dies as a result of the “punishment,” then it’s not discipline; it’s abuse and potential murder.

A couple in Tennessee have been charged with murder in the 2012 death of their five-year-old daughter, whom they allegedly forced to drink nearly half a gallon of grape soda as well as an unknown amount of water as punishment.


The girl, Alexa Linboom, apparently got caught sneaking some of her stepmother’s soda, so she and Alexa’s biological father allegedly forced her to drink the remaining 4.5 12-ounce cans.

Randall Lee Vaugh, 41, and Mary Lavonne Vaughn, 58, were charged Monday with first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated child neglect, and aggravated child abuse. This follows a two-year investigation into the cause of Alexa’s death, which was ultimately determined to be “acute fluid/water intoxication causing hyponatremic encephalopathy.

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The excessive amount of fluid’s in the poor girl’s system caused her sodium levels to drop so low that water was able to enter her brain cells and swell.

She was taken to the emergency room on January 1, 2012 as unresponsive by her parents, and was airlifted to a nearby Children’s Hospital, where she died on January 3.

Attorney General Berkeley Bell claims that not only was the forced drinking incredibly abusive, but the parents’ lack of care for the sick child.

“They also failed to take care of the child once she was injured,” Bell said. “Our position is it was a matter of several hours after the child started exhibiting serious symptoms, after the child was screaming out in pain, went into a paralyzed state, and became unconscious.”

Bell added, “They treated this child so cruelly that it caused the child to die. I don’t know if their intent was to kill the child, but their intent certainly was to harm the child.”

The Vaughns are being held in jail on a $500,000 bond each, and are scheduled to appear in court on Friday.

Do you think that child abuse that leads to death should be charged as first-degree murder?


Image via underclasscameraman/Flickr

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