No charges in toddler’s death

Toddler's family is angry at outcome of case so far.

Posted on March 7, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

ELKHART — The investigation into the 2011 death of 15-month-old Taylor Hartung-Mann has been closed until new evidence comes to light.

Capt. Mike Sigsbee of the Elkhart Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division said the police department has no further leads in the investigation but will look at any new leads that may come up in the future.

Family members of the toddler said they were called to the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s office on Thursday, March 7, for a meeting with prosecutors and police.

Taylor’s paternal grandparents, Rachel Mann and Craig Hartung, attended the Thursday morning meeting.

“I expected good news,” Mann said.

Instead, she was told the investigation had hit a standstill.

“I lost it,” she said. “I was angry and I started asking all these questions.”

“It was a blow. It was a really big blow,” she said.

Hartung, on the other hand, said he had expected this news.

“What else can they do if no one is willing to talk to them?” he said. “They can only pursue it so far before they have to worry about harassment.”

Taylor Hartung-Mann died on Dec. 31, 2011, while in the care of her mother’s boyfriend. Taylor’s mother, Brandi Lord, was at work at the time of the death.

The case was sent to the prosecutor’s office in January 2012 for possible charges, but was sent back to police for further investigation.

Family members said Taylor had several bruises on her body and had suffered broken ribs but the forensic pathologist who examined her body was unable to determine a cause of death.

Of the five adults in the apartment with Taylor that night, only one has been cooperative with police and underwent a polygraph test, the family said.

Taylor’s family is convinced she did not die of natural causes.

“She didn’t die a natural death,” Mann said. “Fifteen months is too old for SIDS.”

“I didn’t think it was anything but foul play,” Kris Jiskra, Taylor’s maternal grandmother, said. “Theye’re still out there and this is going to happen again.”

Mann said she has asked the police department to review how the case was handled because she feels the officers involved were not persistent enough in pursuing interviews with the people at the apartment.

“I’m very disappointed with the way this has been handled,” she said.

“They didn’t give (Taylor) enough time,” Taylor’s aunt, Frances Carpenter, said. “I think they’re pushing her underneath the rug.”

Erica Stabler, a family friend who runs the “Justice for Taylor Leah Hartung-Mann” Facebook page, said she has been in contact with one of the men who was in the apartment when Taylor died.

“He said (the police) spoke to him that night only,” Stabler said. “There were no other calls, no attempts to contact him and he said he is interested in talking (to investigators) and taking a lie detector test.”

Hartung said he is hopeful that someone will come forward with new information. The family is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

“You can’t keep something like that inside forever,” he said. “Someone will talk eventually.”

In the meantime, he said he is trying not to blame police for the lack of answers.

“I don’t like to be down on them too much,” he said. “They have a lot of work to do in this town.”

Jiskra said the family intends to file wrongful death lawsuits against the five adults present at the time of Taylor’s death and have contacted an attorney with experience on similar cases.

Mann is working with Leo Alvarez, co-founder of the National Association Against Child Cruelty, to investigate Taylor’s case.

Alvarez and his organization have helped secure indictments in other cases like Taylor’s, Mann said.

Mann is working to obtain copies of Taylor’s autopsy and other information on the investigation to share with Alvarez.

“This is not the end,” Stabler said.

The family is planning a demonstration in front of the prosecutor’s office at 11 a.m. on Thursday, March 28 to raise awareness of the case.

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