Law enforcement closes case of deceased Franklin toddler

Mason Powell
Mason Powell

Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

Nearly six months after two-year-old Mason Powell was pronounced dead at Angel Medical Center, law enforcement agencies have closed the investigation surrounding his death and has announced that no charges will be filed in the case.

The District Attorney’s Office has completed its review of the investigation into the March 8 death of two-and-a-half year old Mason Lee Powell of Franklin. Mason was brought to the Emergency Room of Angel Medical Center at approximately 3 p.m. on March 8, 2016, by his parents, Audrey and Jeremy Powell. He was examined and pronounced dead upon arrival. Medical personnel and investigators were initially concerned about the circumstances of his death largely because it appeared that he may have been deceased for longer than was reported by his parents. As a result, a joint investigation was conducted by the Franklin Police Department and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

Mason’s parents were interviewed and reported that Mason laid down to take a nap at approximately 11 a.m. on March 8, and they found him to be non-responsive and immediately brought him to the Emergency Room at approximately 3 p.m.

A search warrant was issued after police concluded probable cause to look for evidence in both the home and the car that transported the toddler to the hospital. The scope of the search warrant included items to be seized such as pictures, blood, clothing, and items that could be used to cause blunt force injuries, prescriptions or other items that could be related to Mason’s death.

Items that were seized include: Green towel and blue wash cloth from carpet in living room, clear plastic bag with green vegetable matter, bedding material containing red stains from bed in master bedroom, two tablets in cases, and assorted medications.

Investigators also interviewed Mason’s neighbors, day care providers and medical care providers, who all reported that Mason appeared to be a playful and generally healthy child. In the thorough search of Mason’s residence and collection of items for further inspection and analysis, nothing was found during that search which contributed to or is related to Mason’s death.

“During the course of the investigation, I traveled to Winston-Salem with Franklin Police Chief David Adams, lead investigator, an investigator from the SBI and the Chief Assistant District Attorney to meet with the pathologist who performed Mason’s autopsy,” said District Attorney Ashley Welch. “She explained that Mason’s height and weight were appropriate for his age, there was no indication of neglect, all toxicology screens were negative, there was no trauma or any sign of injury to Mason, and that the immediate cause of his death was low salt level and dehydration. The pathologist also found that Mason was likely suffering from a viral infection prior to his death and that he had a bacterial infection that was capable of accelerating the process of decomposition. She is unable to say with certainty how long Mason had been deceased when he was brought to the Emergency Room, but it is her opinion, based upon her knowledge, training and experience that the timeline reported by Mason’s parents is possible, and that it is possible that Mason had no obvious symptoms of serious illness prior to his death.”

“The Franklin Police Department, the detectives, the SBI office, the District Attorney’s office and the medical examiner’s office all worked diligently on this tragic case,” said Franklin Police Chief David Adams. “We wanted to go to Winston Salem ourselves to meet with the medical examiner’s office and hear the findings in the case, which were there wasn’t any evidence that would warrant criminal charges. It is a devastating situation for the parents, the emergency personnel who responded and has been challenging for everyone involved and I am glad to see it come to a close.”

“After a thorough review of the evidence in this case, including the medical records, witness interviews, physical evidence and consultation with the pathologists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center who conducted the autopsy, the DA’s office has determined that there is no evidence of criminal misconduct related to the death of Mason Powell,” said Welch. “The entire District Attorney’s Office commends the Franklin Police Department and the State Bureau of Investigation on the thoroughness of the investigation in this tragic case and the sensitivity with which it was conducted.”