Perry County parents face manslaughter

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The mother and stepfather of a Perry County boy who died at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital were charged Monday with voluntary manslaughter.

Michael D. Altom, 25, and Emily A. Altom, 25, also face three felony child endangerment charges, according to warrants filed in Perry County associate circuit court.

Four-year-old Ethan Patrick Williams died Aug. 25 following a three-week fight with a devastating staph infection, family members said the day the boy died.

Ethan was the son of Emily Altom and Danny Wayne Williams Jr. The mother was awarded custody of the child in 2002, according to court documents.

The child endangerment charges include one count for each child who was in the home. Ethan had an older brother, Holton Williams, who was also treated for a staph infection after being taken from the home by social workers, and a younger half-brother, Dorian Altom.

If convicted of the manslaughter charge, each could face five to 15 years in prison. The child endangerment charges carry a penalty of up to seven years of prison on each count.

The couple was not in custody when the warrants were issued, Perry County prosecutor Tom Hoeh said Monday evening. A dispatcher at the Perry County sheriff's office would not say whether the couple had been arrested.

The charges were a surprise to family members. Neither Danny Wayne Williams nor Ethan's grandmother, Tressa Williams, was aware of the charges.

Neither was Perry County coroner Herb Miller. He said he was still awaiting autopsy results from the St. Louis City Medical Examiner's office.

"I have been trying to get in contact with the doctor today and hope to tomorrow," Miller said Monday evening. "I want to get preliminary results back if not official."

Miller has been unable to list an official cause of death on the death certificate for Ethan because of the wait on autopsy results.

Miller said he was unaware of the charges, but not necessarily surprised. "They have done it without the autopsy report so the evidence must be there."

Hoeh declined to comment on what evidence convinced him it was time to file charges against the Altoms.

Perry County sheriff Gary Schaaf could not be reached Monday night for comment.

The two other boys, Holton Williams and Dorian Altom, have been in the custody of a foster family since being taken from the home by state social workers, Tara Brace, Danny Williams' fiancee, said Monday.

The telephone at the Altom's rural Perry County home has been disconnected and they could not be reached for comment. Charges list Emily Altom with a Ste. Genevieve address and Michael Altom with a Perryville address.

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