Judge unseals arrest warrant for Steamboat mother whose 3-year-old died
April 15, 2014
Steamboat Springs — At the request of the Steamboat Pilot & Today, Routt County Judge James Garrecht has unsealed records related to the case against Meghan McKeon, the woman charged with child abuse resulting in the death of her 3-year-old son.
The unsealed affidavit for the issuance of McKeon's arrest warrant offers new information about the Austin Davis death investigation. It now is thought that Austin might have been left alone for about 92 hours in a cabin at Steamboat Campground. That is based on an interview police did with McKeon's boyfriend, Brian Jordan, who McKeon had been staying with in Dream Island Plaza.
According to the arrest warrant affidavit, Jordan said he met McKeon the night of March 23 after her shift at City Market. The couple then took the bus to Jordan's home, where McKeon stayed for four nights.
"Brian said he met McKeon at City Market every time she got off work during that time frame and rode the bus with McKeon back to his house where they spent the night," the affidavit states.
Jordan said he never saw McKeon taking care of Austin during that time, the affidavit states, and he did not recall McKeon making arrangements with a day care provider or baby sitter.
Jordan did not immediately return a message left Tuesday seeking comment.
McKeon told police that when she arrived at her home the morning of March 27, she got a call from Austin's father, Tyler Davis, who was calling from Routt County Jail, where he was awaiting sentencing related to not registering as a sex offender.
McKeon told police Davis wanted to know how his son was, and she rolled Austin over and discovered he was not breathing. She told police she then took him to the campground showers and ran cold water on him because she thought it would "shock" him into breathing again.
McKeon told police she then got on a bus to take Austin to Yampa Valley Medical Center. Police have said McKeon did not call 911.
McKeon was arrested later that day on suspicion of misdemeanor child abuse. She originally told police she had left Austin with a baby sitter, and then later said there was no baby sitter, according to the affidavit.
After McKeon was booked into jail, she called Jordan. The affidavit contains a summary of the recorded conversation:
"McKeon described her situation to Brian as being 'really, really serious,' and said she was going to be in here (jail) a really, really long time.' During their conversation McKeon also said, 'It's all my fault, it's my fault that Austin's dead, it's my (expletive) fault.' Brian asked her, 'What are you telling me?' Her reply was, 'It was a (expletive) accident, I'm taking the fall for it. I'm going to be in jail for a long time.'"
The affidavit does not state a suspected cause of death, other than a medical examiner's preliminary finding that Austin did not die of natural causes. Routt County Chief Deputy District Attorney Matt Karzen said in court April 9 that they still were waiting for toxicology test results.
Early on in the investigation, McKeon admitted that she left Austin alone for nearly 20 hours, the affidavit states. McKeon said she put on a movie and left out a Lunchable snack, crackers and a bag of cheese popcorn. When asked what Austin was supposed to drink, McKeon said she left out a juice carton.
Inside the cabin with no running water or bathroom, police found two empty half-gallon containers of juice and full and empty bottles of pop.
Police, in the affidavit, stated the cabin was littered with trash and human waste.
McKeon is not due back in court until 2 p.m. May 7. She is being held in Routt County Jail on a $250,000 bond.
Judge orders records be unsealed
Both the Routt County District Attorney's Office and Public Defender Sheryl Uhlmann had opposed unsealing McKeon's arrest warrant and the affidavit supporting the issuance of an arrest warrant.
On April 8, the Steamboat Pilot & Today, through its Denver attorney, Chris Beall, filed a motion asking that the documents be unsealed.
The original affidavit supporting the misdemeanor charges was not sealed. At issue was the arrest warrant that supported the more serious felony charges. The District Attorney's Office asked that the arrest warrant be sealed, and Judge Garrecht granted the request. He noted in his order filed Tuesday that there was no hearing held regarding the initial sealing of the records.
Routt County Chief Deputy District Attorney Matt Karzen wrote in a response to the Pilot & Today's motion that unsealing the records was against the public interest and "there is a substantial probability it would harm the ability of the assigned police detectives to follow through on all investigative avenues."
Among Uhlmann's objections were concerns about McKeon receiving a fair trial and “the taint of sensationalism and injection of widespread bias created by additional media coverage.”
In his order, Garrecht wrote that public access to the records is controlled by the constitutional right to access to judicial records under the Colorado and United States constitutions, and specifically the First Amendment.
Garrecht referenced the Star Journal Publishing Corp. vs. County Court case in his order.
"In the context of the applicable law, the court concludes that the parties have failed to establish a clear and present danger either to the defendant's right to a fair trial, or any other compelling government interest, and further that the parties have failed to show that there are no less restrictive means by which to protect the defendant's fair trial rights, or any other compelling government interest," Garrecht wrote.