Autopsy shows 8-year-old boy drowned

10 reports of abuse/neglect involving boy had been reported to CPS

Staff writersMarch 18, 2010 

Thurston County sheriff’s officials said today they were no closer to figuring out what happened to a missing Silverdale mother and her son after an autopsy revealed the 8-year-old boy had drowned.

“There’s a lot of theories” about what happened to Shantina “Kat” Smiley, 29, and Azriel Carver, sheriff’s Sgt. Cheryl Stines said. “We may never know.”

There was still no sign of Smiley. A search plane spent this afternoon flying over Point Fosdick, part of the Tacoma Narrows, Fox Island area and the shoreline but found no trace of the missing mother.

“The tides are down so we’re going to get our best view now,” Troyer said as the plane took off from Thun Field.

State officials confirmed Friday that 10 complaints of abuse or neglect involving Azriel were reported to Child Protective Services between June 2005 and April 2009.

Three were investigated, said Sherry Hill, spokeswoman for the Department of Social and Health Services. Of the three:

• A June 2005 complaint involved an allegation of serious physical abuse against Azriel. One of Smiley’s ex-boyfriends was arrested, but charges were never brought. CPS investigators never determined whether the ex-boyfriend or Smiley was responsible for the abuse, Hill said.

• A March 2007 complaint involved an allegation of physical abuse against Azriel by Smiley. “We determined it was unfounded,” Hill said.

• An August 2007 investigation was triggered by an allegation that Smiley left Azriel unsupervised “because she was passed out” from alcohol consumption, Hill said.

That complaint originated out of Longview, she said. After the complaint was investigated, Azriel was placed in the care of relatives as Smiley completed a substance-abuse service program, Hill said.

After Smiley completed the program, Azriel was returned to her care.

Hill said CPS will conduct a “fatality review” of Azriel’s death because of a complaint in April 2009, in which a teacher of Azriel’s notified CPS that he was “acting out” in class, and during an interview with Smiley, she told the teacher of Azriel’s history with CPS.

CPS conducts a “fatality review” in any case involving a deceased child who been the subject of a complaint to CPS within a year of the child’s death, Hill said.

The information about CPS investigations does not change investigators’ approach to trying to find Smiley, sheriff’s Lt. Chris Mealy said.

“Right now, we’re working under the theory that they went into the water and never came up off the beach,” he said.

Azriel’s body was found Thursday on the southern edge of Fox Island, about 16 nautical miles from where his mother’s van was found four days earlier.

The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy and determined the boy drowned and ruled his death accidental. A toxicology report will be conducted, which is standard procedure.

“There’s no signs of violence to the body,” Stines said after receiving a report from investigators present during the autopsy. She declined to elaborate.

Smiley and Azriel were last seen Saturday night north of Olympia. Her minivan was discovered Sunday morning, stuck on a beach at Little Fishtrap, northeast of Boston Harbor.

In the hours and days afterward, Thurston County sheriff’s investigators tracked the mother and son’s movements based on interviews and surveillance footage.

The two had been headed from Silverdale to Castle Rock in Cowlitz County on Saturday but got off in Olympia. They were seen at several stores and a diner.

The last sighting was about 10 p.m., when they went to a home on 46th Avenue to ask for directions back to Interstate 5. The minivan was found the next morning. Some of their belongings washed up later about a quarter-mile east of where the van was found.

A woman walking her dog along Fox Island’s Pebble Beach found Azriel’s body just before 2 p.m. Thursday. Law enforcement aircraft and boats searched the waters off Fox Island and deputies also walked the beaches but found nothing.

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