BOTTLES, PILLS MIGHT BE CLUES IN BABY’S DEATH – FATHER LEFT HIM IN HOT CAR AT HOME — (Lexington Herald-Leader)

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Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)

August 4, 2005

Author: Cassondra Kirby, Herald-Leader Staff Writer

Three empty mini-bottles of vodka, three empty beer containers and three prescription bottles of pills were among the items police seized from the home of a Lexington father charged with murder in the death of his 9-month-old son, according to a search warrant released yesterday.

Police were called to Leon T. Jewell’s house on Plantation Drive after his wife, Brandon Jewell, returned from work Monday to find the couple’s only child, Daniel Jewell, strapped into a car seat in their sweltering sport-utility vehicle.

Leon, 36, had taken Daniel out with him early Monday, but when he returned the baby was left in the SUV.

He had been back home for “quite a while” before Brandon Jewell found her son, said Lexington police Sgt. Joe Famularo.

She tried to resuscitate him with CPR.

Police are waiting for autopsy results to determine how long Daniel was left in the SUV.

It was parked in the driveway behind the couple’s home on Monday, when temperatures reached 94 degrees outside.

Daniel was pronounced dead at 6:04 p.m. at St. Joseph Hospital.

Preliminary autopsy results indicate that he died from hyperthermia, or overheating, said Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn.

When police arrived at the couple’s house, Leon Jewell “was found to be in an intoxicated state,” the findings say. He was “unable to determine the location or physical state of the child.”

According to the search warrant, police took from the home items that “may have caused impairment and … contributed to the … death of a 9-month-old child.”

Police seized three empty containers of Budweiser beer totaling 36 ounces, two empty 50-milliliter bottles of Absolut vodka and one empty 50-milliliter bottle of Absolut Citron vodka.

The liquor bottles are the size served on airplanes.

All were taken from trash cans inside and outside the two-story, red-brick house.

Police also took a prescription bottle of 300-milligram Allopurinol tablets, used to treat kidney stones and gout, and two bottles of Cymbalta, which is for severe depression and pain management.

One contained 30-milligram pills, the other 60-milligram tablets. All three were in the master bathroom.

Both prescription medications can cause drowsiness, and doctors urge caution when operating a vehicle while taking them.

It is unclear whether the medications were prescribed for Leon or Brandon Jewell.

Leon Jewell was arrested about 8:30 p.m. Monday, hours after Daniel’s body was found in the burgundy SUV.

Officials are waiting for test results to determine what Jewell’s blood-alcohol level was and whether drug use might have played a part in his intoxicated state.

Leon Jewell did not enter a plea Tuesday during a video arraignment from the Fayette County jail.

A preliminary hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. Aug. 12.

Yesterday, he declined to talk to reporters from jail, where he is being held on a $250,000 full cash bond.

Brandon Jewell could not be reached at home for comment.

Earlier this week, neighbors described the couple as warm and loving.

Some recalled how the Jewells frequently took Daniel on evening walks around the neighborhood.

But some questioned how Leon Jewell could have forgotten the baby.

Jan Null, an adjunct professor of meteorology at San Francisco State University, said it wouldn’t have taken long for Daniel to die in the SUV, given Monday’s temperature of 94 degrees.

On a day like that, it probably would get hotter than 130 degrees inside the vehicle.

That would raise the body’s temperature to dangerous levels and cause the baby’s organs to begin failing, said Null, who studies such circumstances and monitors similar deaths around the county.

So far this year, 20 children in the United States — including two from Kentucky — have died in heat-related vehicle cases.

In Rockcastle County, Sebastian McCown, 2, died July 21 after he sneaked into a car while his mother slept. No charges are expected in that case.

Funeral services for Daniel at the Kerr Brothers Funeral Home will be private.

Reach Cassondra Kirby at (859) 231-3266 or ckirby@herald-leader.com.

Copyright (c) 2005 Lexington Herald-Leader
Record Number:  0508040002