Meghan McKeon in court
Steamboat Springs The woman accused of neglecting her 3-year-old son who ultimately died was arrested again Wednesday afternoon, this time on suspicion of child abuse resulting in death, a Class 2 felony.
The Steamboat Springs Police Department thinks Austin Davis was left home alone for nearly 20 hours in a dangerous environment while Meghan McKeon was at work and then spent the night at a boyfriend’s house, according to an arrest affidavit. Police think McKeon had been leaving Austin home alone for at least a month.
After speaking to Routt County Public Defender Sheryl Uhlmann during the 1 p.m. hearing Wednesday, McKeon tried to plead guilty to the three misdemeanors she was originally charged with on Friday.
Many attending McKeon’s 1 p.m. court appearance initially were shocked when the charges were then immediately dismissed by the Routt County District Attorney’s Office, and then Routt County Judge James Garrecht ordered McKeon be released from custody.
“I had a sneaky suspicion this was going to happen,” Garrecht said. “I understand there is a lot of strategy going on here, but that’s where we are.”
When Charity O’Konski, Austin’s paternal grandmother, heard McKeon was being released, she shouted “She killed a baby.”
O’Konski calmed down after she met with Routt County Chief Deputy District Attorney Matt Karzen.
Karzen later explained that if McKeon had pleaded guilty to the three misdemeanor charges she originally faced, a legal argument could have been made that more serious charges could not be filed at a later time.
“We wanted to try to eliminate any potential problems,” Karzen said.
Karzen said they now had reasonable cause to arrest and charge McKeon with child abuse resulting in the death of her son.
Routt County Jail Lt. Michelle Richardson said McKeon was never released from the jail before being arrested again.
The new arrest warrant has been sealed by a judge, unlike the arrest affidavit that detailed what led to the initial arrest.
Karzen said he would not discuss the new information that led him to file the new felony charge, which carries a standard sentencing range of between eight and 24 years.
Karzen said the DA's office hopes toxicology tests will be completed in two weeks to determine exactly what caused Austin’s death. The initial autopsy only showed Austin’s death was not natural.
McKeon will next appear in court at 1 p.m. Thursday. She is being held on $250,000 bond.
According to the arrest affidavit, when McKeon came home the morning of March 27, she found her son was not breathing and was lying face up with his eyes open and fixed on the ceiling. Police said she contacted family members and got on a bus to take the boy to Yampa Valley Medical Center. Steamboat Springs Police Capt. Jerry Stabile said family members called 911, and the emergency responders found the boy and McKeon at the Stock Bridge Transit Center.
A doctor who tried to save Austin’s life was concerned the boy possibly had ingested prescription medication or other substances. Police then got permission to search the cabin McKeon was staying in at Steamboat Campground.
Police said the cabin smelled, and it contained partially eaten food and human waste.
O’Konski said she was on her way to pick up Austin and 20 minutes away from Steamboat when McKeon called her and said Austin was not breathing.
“What kind of mother wouldn’t call 911 when your baby’s not breathing?” O’Konski asked. “What does that tell you?”
O’Konski said she was Austin’s legal guardian and had helped raise Austin since he was born.
O’Konski said she was concerned about Austin being with McKeon while Austin’s father, Tyler Davis, was being held at the Routt County Jail awaiting a sentencing.
“I should have been there a day earlier or two weeks earlier,” said O’Konski, who lives in the Winter Park area.
O’Konski said Davis and McKeon moved to Steamboat last summer, and she wished McKeon would have asked for help.
“All she had to do was call me,” O’Konski said.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland