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‘The Victim’s Stomach Was Caved and His Rib Cage Protruded’: Florida Mom Charged with Starving 5-Month-Old Son to Death

Tania Nicole McGowan

Tania Nicole McGowan

A 23-year-old mother in Florida was arrested for allegedly beating and starving her five-month-old son to death. Tania Nicole McGowan was taken into custody last week and charged with one count each of child abuse and child neglect over the infant’s death, court records reviewed by Law&Crime show.

According to an arrest report, medical personnel with Jacksonville Fire and Rescue (JFRD) at approximately 6:17 p.m. on Dec. 11 responded to a 911 call regarding an unresponsive infant at a residence located in the 14000 block of Duval Road. Upon arriving at the scene, first responders located the infant and transported him to University of Florida Health. He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the facility.

At approximately 8:45 p.m., deputies with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) were dispatched to the hospital where the staff told them that the deceased child’s mother — later identified as McGowan — had left the building right after her son was pronounced dead, the document states.

While the results of an autopsy were still pending when the arrest report was filed, the medical staff told a detective that the child was “emaciated,” weighing only seven pounds at the time of his death. The detective on the scene described the boy as appearing “extremely malnourished to the point that the victim’s stomach was caved and his rib cage protruded.”

“The victim’s face was thin and his cheeks were sunken in,” the detective wrote.

A medical examiner determined that the infant was “severely dehydrated and malnourished,” finding there was “no evidence of food” in the child’s stomach or intestines.

Investigators located McGowan at her home where she allegedly provided written consent for the scene to be processed. Inside, detectives say they found the home “cluttered with little to no furniture.” There was only a single container of baby formula and two bottles in the home, the report states.

In an interview with investigators, McGowan allegedly said that she put her son down at around 8 p.m. the previous night. She woke up at 11 a.m. but did not check on the infant for another three hours, at which point she assumed the boy was still asleep. McGowan allegedly said that she fell asleep again, waking up at around 6 p.m. and making a bottle.

“[S]he made an 8 ounce bottle and went to wake the victim, but he was unresponsive,” according to the report. “McGowan stated that the victim’s eyes and mouth were open, he was pale and cold to the touch.”

The manager of McGowan’s apartment complex spoke to detectives and “expressed concern for the wellbeing of the victim.” The manager informed investigators that McGowan on Dec. 6 was inside the complex common area when people heard “slapping” sounds. They looked into the common area and found Tania McGowan with the infant and another small child.

Surveillance footage of the incident provided to investigators allegedly showed the following:

“Tania McGowan can be seen lying the victim on a couch and then walks away. The victim is covered in a baby blanket,” the arrest report states. “McGowan returns to the victim, picks him up and then forcefully slams him back onto the couch. She grabs the victim by the head and face and forcefully twists the victim’s head to the side. She then covers the victim’s head with the blanket and begins to forcefully strike the victim on the back repeatedly with an open hand.”

McGowan then allegedly “grabs the victim by the face and twists his head” before again covering him with the blanket and striking him “forcefully” on the back.” Finally, she is allegedly shown taking “a large throw pillow from the couch” and putting it over the infant’s head before walking away.

McGowan allegedly told investigators that she had never brought her son to a doctor since his July birth. She further claimed that she noticed the child was “slimming down,” but allegedly said she thought “he only looked that way because he was growing in length.”

She is currently being held on $1.5 million bond and is scheduled to appear at the Duval County Courthouse on Jan. 5.

[image via Duval County Sheriff’s Office]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.