Toddler Wandered Outside While Family Slept & Froze to Death Steps From Her Door

Sofia VanSchoick
Courtney VanSchoick/Facebook

A 2-year-old girl was found unresponsive right outside of her mom's home after spending the night barefoot and in only a nightgown in the bitter New England cold. Neighbors discovered the terrible tragedy the next morning when they spotted her body in the cold and prayed that it was a doll and not the "precocious" toddler as they approached. 

  • New Hampshire police say they received a call about an unresponsive toddler early in the morning on January 14. 

    According to WMUR 9, Shane Rowe and his girlfriend found found Sofia VanSchoik early on Monday morning in Newport, New Hampshire, just steps away from the door to her house. The child was shoeless and dressed only in her nightgown. "I saw a little girl next to the bottom of the stairway," Rowe said. "I said to myself, 'I hope that's a doll.'"

    While Rowe called 911 around 7:10 a.m. to report an unresponsive toddler who wasn't breathing, he says that his girlfriend banged on the VanSchoik home to alert the child's pregnant mom. When authorities arrived, Sofia was tragically pronounced dead. 

    According to authorities, police believe from a preliminary investigation that Sofia managed to wander out of her house during the night  and “was not able to regain entry.” That left her to spend the rest of the night in bitter weather that was 8 degrees below zero.

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  • Rowe said his girlfriend had heard crying outside at about 4 a.m. but they didn't see anything at the time and went back to sleep. 

    But when they went to warm up their cars early the next morning, they discovered the awful truth: the sounds were likely coming from the dying child.

    Police Chief James Burroughs announced that Sofia died from “exposure to the elements and hypothermia which are consistent with the autopsy results.”

    Although her death is still being investigated, Burroughs said it's believed to be accidental. “I don’t believe it was too difficult for the child to get out,” he added. 

  • Sofia's grandfather also spoke out about the tragedy and shared that the family is now trying to put together exactly what happened that night.

    Sofia's grandfather, Lindsay VanSchoick, said that it had been only days since the little girl, her pregnant mother, Courtney, and her twin brother, Camden, moved into their new home, and explained that it was not unusual for the little girl to wake in the night and wander around the house. His guess is that his granddaughter might have gotten disoriented in the new space. "She was a very precocious 2 1/2-year-old girl, way ahead of her time," he said. "She was very independent, ahead of her time."

    He also told ABC 13 that the front door leading outside was easy to open and that because they had just moved in they, had yet to install deadbolts on the entrance.

    "It's rough," he added. "It was a terrible accident, a terrible accident. She [his daughter and Sofia's mom] is doing horrible. She is doing terrible. She just lost one of her children."

    He added that his granddaughter had been a “very intelligent, precocious, very stubborn and adamant” child. “She was a very special kid,” he said.

    Sofia's mom, Courtney VanSchoick, spoke to People about the unthinkable accident and how her family is coping. She said that the door was locked before she went to sleep and that Sofia must have managed to unlock the new door. “I didn’t know she could open the door,” she said. “An EMT came into the ambulance and didn’t say a word. I knew right then that she didn’t make it.” 

    “I woke this morning for the first time without my baby girl and her twin brother has been looking for her since he woke up,” she continued. "[The hardest part has been] waking up this morning and getting clothes for one child instead of two.”

    Sofia's family has created a GoFundMe to cover the costs of the little girl's funeral.

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