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Manner of death ‘undetermined’ in case of Castaic boy found in washing machine

Posted: May 7, 2014 5:31 p.m.
Updated: May 7, 2014 5:31 p.m.

Investigators with the county coroner’s office have closed their case on 8-year-old Cole Hartman — the Santa Clarita Valley youngster found face-down and submerged in a water-filled washing machine last summer — without declaring the autistic boy’s death an accident, suicide or homicide.

Detectives with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau who have been investigating the case for more than half a year — interviewing and “re-interviewing” family members, reviewing forensics and scrutinizing the 911 call — released the “security hold” they had placed on information surrounding the case, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Department said.

Lt. Craig Henry of the Coroner’s Department said he received a letter in February from homicide detectives saying “please release the security hold” placed on information about the case.

“The cause of death is drowning, with other significant factors being a history of Fragile X Syndrome,” Henry said this week. “The mode of death, or manner of death, however, is undetermined.”

Fragile X Syndrome is a genetic condition that shows typical physical attributes along with behavioral and developmental anomalies in a child, according to a doctor defining the condition for the News Medical website. It is the most widespread single-gene cause of autism and inherited cause of intellectual disability, especially among boys.

Henry referred to the syndrome as a “developmental condition.”

The coroner has one of four choices to make in determining a manner of death: accident, suicide, homicide or undetermined.

The coroner’s case on Cole Hartman was closed last October with the manner of the boy’s death officially ruled undetermined, Henry said.

On July 31, 2013, about 7:30 p.m., the boy’s father found him in the family’s top-loading washing machine at their home on Pansy Court in Castaic.

Detectives tested the washing machine and confirmed the agitator was running with the lid up at the time the boy was found in it. Normally, washing machines automatically shut off when the lid is opened.
On Twitter @jamesarthurholt




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