Accused of Neglect:
Could Carbon Monoxide
Poisoning do this to YOUR Family?
Hansen 6 April 04 (edited & expanded
by TLR 5/9/04) To
David Hansen's draft
Dan Thaxton, Jr., right, passed away
October 2, 2001 at the age of 2 years, 5 months. Dan Sr. and Carolee Thaxton
had purchased their Bountiful home in October 1999 when Dan Jr. was six
months old. Any sicknesses the family had before October 2001 seemed
like regular sicknesses at the time. When Dan Sr. came into his son's room
the morning of October 2nd, Dan's body was cold to the touch and had clearly
been dead for a few hours. The state medical examiner diagnosed him with
myocardia, which is an inflammatory virus that causes heart failure. The
case was closed and the Thaxton's went about their lives.
was born May 2002.
Through late spring
Matthew developed robustly,
bright and happy.
About November following, Matthew began
to be pale in color. It wasn't terribly noticeable until about Christmastime.
Thaxton's took him to Wee-Care in Layton. Doctors checked his vitals and
determined he was fine, so they did a blood test and found his red/white
and platelet cell count low. Doctors thought this odd and referred them
to Davis North Hospital where another blood test was performed to verify
the accuracy of the first test. It was accurate, so Thaxtons then returned
to Wee-Care, which in turn referred them to Primary Childrens Medical Center
In January 2003, doctors at PCMC performed
more tests, including continuous blood counts (CBC's), and suspected he
may have leukemia. They kept him there a few days and then did more extensive
testing, including a bone marrow biopsy. The tests for leukemia came back
Two crucial tests doctors did NOT run
were a Carboxy-Hemaglobin check, which would have detected any carbon monoxide
poisoning, and a swallowing barium test, which would have detected a swallowing
disorder known as dysphagia that would also have pointed to carbon monoxide
poisoning. During this time doctors performed a blood transfusion on Matthew.
While conversing with doctors, the Thaxtons
volunteered that they followed a strict vegan diet (no animal products
whatsoever). Doctors did more blood tests and discovered a deficiency in
vitamin B-12 and iron. They determined that it was these deficiencies that
were causing Matthew's sickness and recommended that the Thaxton's have
additional testing at an outpatient clinic. Those tests showed his B-12
and iron deficiencies were decreasing, and that his body could produce
Doctors at PCMC released Matthew to
his parents under the care of his primary physician, and Matthew continued
to improve between January and April. On the last visit in April with Matthew's
primary care physician, the doctor told the Thaxtons he would not have
to see Matthew for another six months.
On June 1, 2003, Carolee and the kids
had come down with a bad flu. Matthew had it for two or three days and
started to breath somewhat erratically, so the Thaxtons took him back to
Wee-Care. Matthew was life-flighted to PCMC, and for one and a half days
doctors could not figure out the problem. Doctors then looked back into
Matthew's medical records and determined that it must be the B-12 deficiency
again. The Thaxton's told doctors that it was the flu, but the doctors
didn't want to hear it and told them it was the diet, not the flu.
That began the nightmare.
On June 9, 2003 DCFS social workers
arrived and told the Thaxtons they were taking Matthew and putting him
in foster care with a family member on Dan's side of the family. Although
hospital social workers (who have an office right in PCMC) had visited
with the Thaxtons previous to their taking Matthew, this was still a shock
to Dan and Carolee.
The Thaxtons were not allowed to leave
the hospital unit with Matthew, whereas before, they were allowed to tour
the hospital and take him outside. No longer could they bring him food,
and hospital officials began weaning him (he was one year old at the time)
and putting him on formula. Matthew, though, wouldn't take a bottle and
required a tube to be fed. Doctors held Matthew in the hospital for 2-1/2
DCFS officials allowed the Thaxtons
to visit Matthew while he was in the hospital. After DCFS got involved,
Matthew's room was changed three times, his nurses and doctors changed
multiple times, and hospital officials wouldn't talk to or provide information
to the Thaxtons. "They seemed cold to us," Carolee said. Beginning from
this time and to the present, DCFS also required monthly visitations at
the Thaxton's home to check up on all of the Thaxton's children.
On the morning of June 20, 2003, Carolee
had been at the hospital and then returned home to shower. A DCFS social
worker called Dan Sr. and told him to tell his wife not to bother coming
back in to the hospital, and that Matthew had been released to Dan's sister,
miles away and adversarial, a release Dan Sr. and Carolee did not approve
of. They had wanted Matthew to be released to Carolee's sister
2 miles away and supportive. This shocked then--again. Carolee's mother
suggested that Clay Christiansen, Carolee's father, call the hospital to
verify whether Matthew had been released. Clay got through to Matthew's
room, but Carolee's sister's husband answered, so Clay hung up.
The Thaxton's called their then attorney
Hilton who recommended that they go to the hospital and attempt to
see Matthew. Carolee, Clay, and her mother and sister went to PCMC to see
Matthew. At the unit, Carolee used the phone to inform the nurses station
they were there. The nurse answered, "Matthew who?" "I'm here to see my
son," Carolee said. The nurse put her on hold, then returned and told Carolee
that she could not see him. "Why," Carolee asked. "DCFS won't allow it",
the nurse said. Carolee and her family went home at that point.
On June 13, 2003 doctors determined
that Matthew also had dysphagia, a swallowing disorder. The nurse informed
the Thaxtons of this diagnosis and told them he could have been born with
Matthew was released from the hospital
to Dan's relatives the afternoon of June 21, 2003.
A few days thereafter in the trama
of having their baby Matthew removed, Diane and Carolee went to get
answers relative to the irrational nutritional abuse charge from a friend
Thomas L Rodgers, who's experience and knowledge about their own diet choices
as Vegetarians was broadly known and respected among prominent media and
art performers. Mr Rodgers immediately became a vinous advocate who
attempted to educate their defense attorney, and provided peer reviewed
AMA medical support for their diet. But the Medical establishment of this
State, Intermountain Health Care (IHC) through its Primary Children's Medical
Center (PCMC), UUMC, DCFS and their Safe and Healthy Families (SHF) arm
had spoken, and could not afford challenge to their diagnosis. So they
ignored good research and correcting second opinions, and so they viciously
pursued prosecution of the parents with out impunity or rational caution.
Through two indicting hearings the
collusion of DCFS, the State Medical Examiner (who botched Dan Jr's post
mortum exam), SHF and PCMC all shielded behind the Attorney General they
locked out reason and manipulated law to charge the Thaxtons with nutritional
and now medical neglect. Mr Rodgers continued with them through the hearing
and attempted to pursue and provide good research to exonerate the family
-- but it was never argued. Their own defense Attorney in prejudice sided
with the prosecution and did not present effective or reasoned argument
for the Thaxtons (He even claimed he was going to save all Vegetarians
from their unhealthy practices! and they would all thank him!) So the family
were "guilty" and their Matthew was not coming home!
In the pain of the hearings and the
bogus presented "dependency" demanded upon the rest of their family (Marilee,
Sarah and any future pregnancies and no indication of Matthew's return)
the Thaxtons and Christiansen poured out their anguish with Tom Rodgers.
Mr Rodgers felt something was not fitting in the whole story around their
loss and experience, and not having access to medical records (until months
later), asked them to spend time with him to rehearse their whole life
story around their marriage to their first son Dan Jr's death, then through
Matthew's birth and development, to the current malaise and trauma that
precipitated his removal from them.
For the next week, every day Mr Rodgers
listened to their story; from marriage, birth of Marilee, Sarah, Dan Jr.
their new home purchase, and their experiences up to Dan Jr's death, Matthew
birth and experience again to his malaise and PCMC DCFS "abduction".
As the days of experience rehearsal
unfolded Mr Rodgers realized he was hearing familiar symptoms he had hear
before in his science and experience. Subtle asphyxiation poisoning! So
on Friday, having never been to the young Thaxton family's home, Mr Rodgers
asked to be taken to their house.
That August day, the real culprit
was certifiably now determined. What doctors, police, paramedics, the coroner,
and a homicide detective missed in October 1999, this now committed
friend of the family, Tom Rodgers, verified visually as soon as
he drove up to the home: the exhaust from the furnace (which most untrained
or inexperience people thought was a dryer vent), vented right out
the front of the house within 11 inches of a fresh air intake vent to the
furnace/water heater closet, and through louvered door into the home.
Compounding the problem was the prevailing
winds off of the Bountiful foothills, which created high pressure on the
east side of the home, forcing carbon monoxide gas into the fresh air vent
and thus into the home. Video (or click here for higher quality Windows
Media File image requiring broadband or a longer load time) shows the dangerous
exhaust gasses being emitted and then being pushed back into the
air intake vent and inside the home.
Not only had the Thaxtons had a licensed
home inspector check the furnace when they first purchased the home, but
they also had a carbon monoxide detector installed in the hall outside
the bedrooms. The detector, in fact, finally did go off the morning police
arrived to investigate Dan Jr.'s death--but only AFTER Dan Jr. had died.
According to Dan Thaxton, police left the doors open during the investigation,
and when the home was checked for carbon monoxide fumes, the fumes had
already disbursed. It is curious that a detector would go off AFTER a child
died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Is it possible that these detectors
are not calibrated properly to protect the most vulnerable, infants, from
low-level effects of CO poisoning. After the CO check came up clean, nobody
gave CO poisoning another thought until Tom Rodgers identified the symptoms
Carolee later learned that dysphagia
can cause malnutrition, which if left untreated will cause death. Also,
low-level carbon monoxide poisoning is known to cause dysphagia. (Carolee
was pregnant with Matthew during the winter of 2002/2003 and Matthew would
have been exposed to CO poisoning then.)
Until Feb. 3, 2004, the Thaxtons had
supervised visitation once to twice a week for two hours per visit, and
later the number of visits went up to three per week. Matthew was also
allowed to visit Carolee's sister on most weekends where Carolee and Dan
were allowed supervised visits with him there. Supervision required that
a relative be present at all times.
On Christmas eve, Matthew was allowed
to return home for an unsupervised visit until Christmas afternoon.
On January 20, 2004, the Thaxton family's
attorney, Jay Kessler, attempted a motion to Judge Kathleen Nelsen for
a mistrial in order to present the carbon monoxide information. Judge Nelson
recused herself, refused to hear the evidence, and told Kessler that this
case would be handled by Judge Stanton Taylor.
Matthew, with sisters, Sarah and Marylee
On Feb. 2, 2004, Judge Nelson allowed
Matthew to return home with certain stipulations. The custody arrangement
is legally considered temporary until August 2004, at which time the judge
will determine if the placement of Matthew with his family will be permanent.
The judge also required that the Thaxtons had to continue to take Matthew
and their two girls, Marylee (8) and Sarah (7), to Dr. Lisa Sampson-Fang
at doctor-specified intervals. DCFS is attempting to institute a "service
plan", but the Thaxton's have refused to sign it, but are, nevertheless,
doing what the judge ordered. The Thaxtons also must continue to submit
to a monthly visit from a DCFS social worker.
On March 3, 2004, Judge Taylor heard
the new evidence regarding the CO poisoning, but still refused a new trial.
The Thaxton's are still appealing for
anew trial and to have the child neglect charges (negligent "homocide"
as DCFS's "substantiated" neglect, nutritional neglect, medical neglect)
Visit 29 April 2004
On April 29, I was invited by Dan to
attend the monthly visit by DCFS case worker Cindy Barker at the home of
Carolee's parents, Clay and Diane Christianson. I arrived a little early.
Also present were Tom Rodgers, Martin King (a friend of mine), Dan Thaxton
Sr., Matthew (soon to be two years old), and the Thaxton's two daughters,
Marylee and Sarah. Carolee Thaxton, Dan's wife, was sick and did not attend
Matthew, despite having pink eye (going
around right now in Bountiful), was running around like any normal two-year-old.
His deep-set, dark eyes beamed as he played "catch-me" with his dad.
The social worker, Cindy Barker, arrived
a few minutes late. She's apparently assigned to high profile cases. High
profile cases are those in which a death is involved and DCFS may have
wronged the family. Cindy had fairly long blond hair, was tall, thin, and
wore a black pant suit. She wore two gaudy bracelets, had two equally gaudy
rings on her left hand, and two smaller rings on her right hand. She took
a seat near one (the oldest) of two baby grand pianos belonging to the
Because of the furnace problem, the
Thaxtons have chosen not to move back into their home until inspectors
from Carrier Furnace company and Mountain Fuel have inspected the furnace's
installation. Nobody knows who mis-installed the furnace (the home has
had two previous owners), and the furnace is a newer model high efficiency
design that can be vented out the side of the home if requirements of
window, door and vents or other structure openings are distanced per Manufactures
and National codes.
Cindy carried a three-inch black binder,
which she used to take notes of the conversation. She wrote down the names
of everyone present, and then told Dan that she had two subjects she wanted
First was the name of the family therapist
the Thaxtons were to see. The judge ordered family therapy but only specified
that it had to be done by August. No particular number of visits was specified.
Dan told Cindy that he was considering a therapist and was taking care
of the requirement. Cindy asserted that she wanted the therapy to begin
very soon, and that if the Thaxton's didn't like the service plan they
should consult their attorney.
The second item Cindy broached regarded
Matthew's "slow" speech development. One therapist, a Maria, recommended
an "extensive" plan. She claims Matthew is "severely delayed in speech
and language." The plan requires twice a week visits, with $20 co-payments,
for a three year duration. This therapist has only seen Matthew once and
claims that kids his age (23 months old) should be saying some 300 words
a day. Matthew was shy and clingy during the visit with the therapist.
Dan told me later that although Matthew doesn't say much, he's extremely
intelligent and knows how to operate all of the electronic buttons on their
sound/audio system. He's also repeating words if he wants to. As an alternative
to the three-year plan, Cindy recommended as an alternative an "early intervention"
plan that cost $40 a month.
Cindy gave Dan a Release of Information
form, which she wanted Dan to sign so that the therapy information could
be shared with DCFS. Dan took it and told her he would first have to have
his lawyer look at it. Dan also asked her why the therapy release form
included all three kids, and not just Matthew. Cindy responded that he
didn't have to use that release form and could use one recommended by his
Cindy then asked about the vitamin supplements
being required for Matthew. The type that Matthew was originally taking
had been discontinued, Dan told Cindy, so he had procured another type
that was similar in nutrients. "What kind?" Cindy asked. Dan didn't remember
the name, so Cindy asked him to retrieve the bottle. A while later Dan
found them and handed them to Cindy, who looked intently at the label and
make some notes in her black binder. A new liquid form of the original
formula will be used in the future, Dan told her.
Cindy confirmed that Matthew was still
receiving his Iron and B-12 supplements. Dan's two daughters are no longer
getting vitamin injections. A doctor's follow-up is scheduled for May 24th,
Dan told her.
At this point Cindy asked to talk to
the girls. "Alone," Dan asked? "Yes, alone," Cindy said. "No, you can't
talk to them alone," Dan told her. Cindy told Dan that is was part of their
standard protocol to talk to the children in private, as she had done before.
Dan had been late on the previous DCFS visit, and Cindy, without asking
permission, followed Sarah downstairs and talked alone with her. Cindy
made a note of Dan's objection to her talking alone with his daughters
in her big black book and told Dan that she would turn that information
over to a lawyer, and "they can do with it what they may."
Cindy then interviewed the two girls
with all of us present. "Have you been eating OK?" Tom told Cindy that
she looked a little gaunt and that she should eat with the Thaxton's. Cindy
"How's school?" Cindy continued, "what
are you learning?" Addition, subtraction, and their favorite thing
to do was to read, the girls answered. Their favorite books were Dr. Seuss's
Cat in the Hat, Hop on Pop, and Green Eggs and Ham. The girls are also
both in ballet lessons and wear butterfly costumes. Sara was the bravest
and did some spins and a few short leaps to demonstrate, giggling as she
passed her father, who sat on the landing. Matthew came up to his dad from
behind, grabbed him by the neck and tried to pull him over backwards.
Tom then asked Cindy whether she saw,
in light of the new CO evidence, that the direction DCFS was mandating
was wrong. Cindy responded that she "trusts that the judge has enough experience
and wisdom to make a good decision." Tom told her that the real problem
should be looked at. If carbon monoxide was the real culprit, then shouldn't
DCFS change the therapy requirements?
Cindy asked, "What can I do about it?
Carbon monoxide wasn't part of the adjudication. But if it were shown,
then DCFS would require a new furnace." Cindy admitted she didn't have
a background in heating and air conditioning and doesn't know if the furnace
setup is dangerous. She added that she would not waste time on this issue,
as she trusts the medical experts. She can't "change anything or do anything."
Tom followed up and asked her whether
she was not "scratching her head about the furnace." She responded that
she sides with DCFS, but she didn't have time to go through the "stacks
and stacks of stuff" on this case. She said that she was put on this case
"after the fact," and that she "can't do anything about it." She suggested
that the Thaxtons call Dateline or 20/20 and get the media involved in
So, there you have
it. The only justice DCFS provides is a recommendation to go to Dateline
or 20/20 to apply national pressure. How many of the hundreds of families
being abused by state DCFS-type agencies nationwide will get this kind
The Thaxton's only desire is to be exonerated
of charges that they are responsible for Dan Jr.'s death and to be free
of the intrusive visits of DCFS case workers which still threaten to take
Matthew away if the Thaxtons do not abide by the judge's orders and a service
plan that they have not signed.