Death of child in state care to be ruled natural

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 4:30pm

The February death of a child who was living with foster parents and in state custody was "almost certainly" due to a series of natural causes, according to an announcement today by the state's Department of Children's Services.

But Metro Police and the state medical examiner’s office have yet to conclude their investigations, leaving some question as to how the agencies are coordinating on the case.

Cherokeewolf William Diedrich was two months old when he died on Feb. 2. He was hospitalized three weeks before that, after one of the foster parents called 911 to report that the baby was not breathing. He was taken by ambulance from the Nashville home of foster parents Earl and Cheryl Green to Vanderbilt Medical Center.

Doctors initially told Metro Police and DCS they believed foul play was involved. As a result, the state agency arranged for the Greens' 2-year-old biological daughter to live with relatives while various agencies conducted their investigations. That child was returned to her parents Feb. 23, according to a DCS spokesman.

"The natural child of the foster parents went into this safety placement, as we call it, on the 12th of January," Rob Johnson, DCS spokesman, told The City Paper. "And so we have a situation where we have been told by the medical examiner's office that they are 'adamant,' I believe was the word that was used, that this was going to be a death not of non-accidental causes, that it was very clear to them that the death would be ruled natural.

"The department was waiting for something official, but when it became obvious the reports wouldn't be done for a while, but based on what we'd been briefed on, the proper thing to do was to let this child go home," Johnson said.

The medical examiner's investigation remains open, and the office had no comment on the case Wednesday afternoon.

Metro police spokesman Don Aaron said the cause of death remains unknown, and as such, the department's homicide investigation is still open.

"The next step is to go over what appear to be conflicting medical reports," he said. Metro police’s Youth Services Division began investigating the case as a homicide last month based on information gathered from doctors caring for Cherokeewolf, Aaron told The City Paper. Police had planned to meet with the assistant medical examiner today to go over the hospital’s medical reports, he said, but a conflict pushed the meeting back.

"From our end, there are conflicting medical reports from the medical examiner’s office and the hospital, and if those can be reconciled at all, so be it,” Aaron said.

Aaron confirmed police have been aware that the medical examiner was expected to rule the death natural, although there has not been a final autopsy report.

Cherokeewolf had far from an auspicious beginning. Police said he was born Nov. 9 to Kimberlee Diedrich, 35, who is homeless. The children's services agency assumed custody of the child and placed him in foster care shortly after birth.