Woman charged with murder in death of her 3-year-old son

Published 4:13 pm Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A 35-year-old mother now faces a murder charge in connection with the death of her child earlier this year after police say her neglect of the child led to his death.

Deputies of the Carter County Sheriff’s Office arrested Tabatha Michelle Sword, 35, of 1664 Woodside Drive, Kingsport, on an indictment charging her with first-degree murder in the death of her 3-year-old son over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. CCSO officers booked Sword into the Carter County Detention Center on Wednesday morning around 3:30 a.m.

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Under state law, if a person commits a felony offense and someone dies as a result of that action, the person can face a first-degree murder charge under the state’s “felony murder” statute. According to the indictment against Sword, the child died “in the perpetration of or an attempt to perpetrate aggravated child neglect.”

According to police reports, officers of the Elizabethton Police Department responded to Sword’s home at 123 Reeser Road, Lot 13, around 10 a.m. on May 27 after Sword called 911 to report her child was missing.

In addition to the EPD, deputies of the Carter County Sheriff’s Office, members of the Carter County Rescue Squad’s Technical Rescue Team and Wings Air Rescue also responded to the area to help search for the child. Several neighbors and other civilians also joined in the attempts to find the 3-year-old.

Around 12:40 p.m. an officer found the child floating face down in the middle of Buffalo Creek about 300 yards downstream from his home. The child was obviously deceased and showed no signs of life according to the report. The Carter County Coroner and the Medical Examiners were called to the scene, and an investigation into the child’s death began.

Officers spoke with Sword at the scene that day. The woman told police about 5 or 6 minutes before calling 911 she went into the bathroom at her home and when she came out she found her son missing.

“Ms. Sword stated prior to going to use the bathroom she observed her son, (name withheld), asleep in his bed,” EPD Officer Dustin Johnson said in his police report. “Ms. Sword stated she then locked the screen door and shut the front door. Ms. Sword stated she then pushed the edge of the couch over in front of the door so it couldn’t be opened.”

Sword said she was in the bathroom for a few minutes and when she came out she walked into the living room and found the couch pushed back and the front door was open. She said she looked inside the home for her son and then looked outside calling his name before she called 911.

During the investigation, Johnson said he spoke with neighbors who lived near Sword in the mobile home park. One neighbor reported to officers that about a month before this incident his children had found Sword’s son outside playing near the creek unsupervised. The man told officers his children knocked on Sword’s door multiple times, but no one answered so they opened the door of the home and let the child inside.

The man said a short time later they saw the 3-year-old once again outside the home by himself. This time, when they knocked on Sword’s door and when she opened it she told them she had been asleep.

Sword remains held at the Carter County Detention Center under a $100,000 bond. She is scheduled to appear in Carter County Criminal Court on Nov. 20.