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Sierra McMillan and detectives share different stories about baby's drowning

6:51 PM, Apr 30, 2013   |    comments
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TAMPA, Florida -- It's a tragic case that the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says should serve as a reminder to all parents: don't leave children alone in water, even if it's just a few inches high.

Detectives say 22-year-old Sierra McMillan left her 7-month-old son, Jerwond Elder, unattended in a bathtub with the water running on Sunday afternoon. That led to what an autopsy confirms was an accidental drowning. McMillan is being charged with aggravated manslaughter because she "showed reckless disregard of human life," according to an affidavit.

But detectives and McMillan each have a different account of what happened in the moments leading up to the drowning.

The version provided by the Sheriff's Office: McMillan had put her son in the bathtub with the water running, and left him unattended when a salesman for a cable provider knocked on her apartment door. 

The sales rep told deputies that McMillan let him in her apartment and he heard a child crying and water running in the background. After 15 to 20 minutes, the witness said, the crying stopped but the running water didn't, and McMillan walked to the bathroom.

"She comes back a short time later, her arms are wet, the front of her shirt was wet," says Cristal Bermudez Nunez with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. "We think that maybe when she was in that bathroom to check on the child is when she made the 911 call because when the sales rep left very shortly thereafter, deputies arrived."

The version McMillan told detectives: she gave her son a bath and started the water. She was experiencing fatigue, and as she kneeled to grab soap from under the sink, she lost consciousness, passing out by the bathtub. When she woke up, she found her son face down in the bathtub. She says water filled about half the tub.

That's similar to what she told her neighbor, Raphael Gomez, when he asked her what happened.

"She mentioned something about having passed out and that when she came to, the baby was not breathing," he recalls.

Gomez says during the two years they've been neighbors, McMillan and her boyfriend have acted like caring parents who are proud of their children.

McMillan is currently behind bars on $100,000 bond.

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