Shortly after child protection investigators received reports that Carter James Turcanu’s mother was spending most of her money on drugs — leaving her children hungry — Carter was found dead in his parents’ Stock Island home.
Carter’s death remains under investigation by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, and authorities would not disclose the results of an autopsy that was performed last week. Police reports say Carter’s mother, Marcia Ann Hake, told authorities she left Carter on a couch to sleep, and later found him there unresponsive. Reports said police were considering the possibility that Carter was accidentally smothered while asleep on the couch — a sleeping arrangement that is unsafe for infants.
“The crib is stacked with clothing and other articles,” a DCF report states. “There are concerns on how safe or comfortable the baby was in the home.”
Carter’s family, sources told the Miami Herald, had a long history with the state Department of Children & Families, including two child abuse hotline reports within a couple of months of the boy’s death. A brief DCF incident report said agency lawyers were in the process of asking a judge to oversee the family, which was receiving services from Healthy Start and other better-parenting programs.
Carter’s death comes at a difficult time for DCF, which has struggled to stanch a wave of child deaths, many of them violent, among families with a prior agency history. Last month, the Herald published a series of stories, called Innocents Lost, detailing the deaths by neglect or abuse of 477 children whose families had been known to DCF. Lawmakers, in their last week of the state’s annual session, are considering sweeping legislation to better protect children who have been abused or neglected.