BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Minutes before Kathleen Edwards’ son drowned in her backyard swimming pool, she and her mother were having a conversation about whether it was necessary to have a fence around the pool to prevent the children from falling in, according to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.
Kathleen Edwards said her mother was insisting that she put up a fence during that conversation. She later told investigators, “I still don’t listen to my parents,” records show.
Deputies said they were called to the Grant-Valkaria home at about 9:50 a.m. on June 27, 2020 after 18-month-old Gregory Edwards Jr. was found floating in the water under a tarp.
The boy was taken to Sebastian River Medical Center, where he died on July 2, 2020.
According to the affidavit, Kathleen Edwards was initially hesitant to call 911 when her son was found in the pool because of previous interactions she and her late husband have had with Brevard County deputies.
Ultimately though, she did call 911 and performed CPR on the boy, stopping before first responders arrived because she was afraid she would break his ribs, records show. She estimated that he’d been in the water about 10 minutes, the report said.
Kathleen Edwards told investigators shortly after that she believed her son and daughter were inside the house while she and her mother were talking about the pool safety gate, according to the affidavit.
Records show she said she saw the pool door open but only saw her 3-year-old daughter go out and thought her toddler son was still inside the house.
She claimed she usually keeps a safety fence around the pool but had taken it down the day prior so neighborhood children could go for a swim but deputies said they found the fence in a shed “with several items and debris around and on top of it.”
“This is consistent with the numerous statements received from family and friends, who all stated they have never seen a safety security fence or safety measures in place around the pool to protect children from drowning. This is in direct contradiction with Kathleen’s statement to FTO Nunez about recently taking the fence down so neighborhood kids could swim in the pool,” the report read.
Deputies said Kathleen Edwards and her mother never gave a full account of how the boy died. They also said Kathleen Edwards “provided inconsistent details” about the circumstances.
Records show she told one person that she ran to the neighbor’s house to see if her son was there once she realized he was missing, although the neighbor said she was home at the time and never heard knocking or the dogs barking, while Kathleen Edwards told someone else that she let her children outside through a sliding door and her daughter must have opened up the safety fence to the pool, even though she told investigators that the safety fence wasn’t up before the boy drowned.
Deputies said Kathleen Edwards’ mother told them that the children were in the backyard near the playset and she believes the only way the boy could have gotten into the pool enclosure would have been to crawl through a doggie door. She said when they realized he was missing, she started looking inside then thought to herself, “I’m not crazy, I saw him outside.”
She said, “Something told me to look under the pool tarp,” and that’s where she found him floating in the water, according to the report.
Records show investigators spoke with other loved ones of Kathleen Edwards, who offered details about her relationship with her children.
One woman said she was with Kathleen Edwards the day her husband was taken off life support and she said, “I didn’t want these kids. Greg wanted them. Now I’m stuck here with these kids by myself,” according to authorities.
Neighbors said the children would often play alone outside and there were times when they had to move the boy and girl out of the road so they didn’t get hit by a car, the report said.
The report also provided details about a Department of Children and Families complaint from someone who said Kathleen Edwards would leave her children in soiled diapers and would often lose track of them while using medical marijuana.
Deputies said Kathleen Edwards was drug tested after her son’s death and her results came back positive for medical marijuana, which she is prescribed.
Records show that based on the evidence, deputies concluded that Kathleen Edwards failed to properly supervise and protect her son, adding that if she had put up a fence around the pool she could have reduced his risk of drowning.
The state attorney’s office conducted an additional investigation before making the decision to prosecute.
“The death of a child is a devastating event and carries with it an emotional burden unlike any other,” State Attorney Phil Archer said in a statement. “As a society, we understand that sense of loss, but we also charge law enforcement with the duty to determine if any abuse or neglect contributed to the death.”
Kathleen Edwards is facing a charge of manslaughter of a child.
Her attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, said she’s not to blame.
“Prosecutors are committing a miscarriage of justice by charging her criminally. She is 100% innocent and the charge is baseless,” he said. “At the time of this tragedy, Kathleen Edwards was not the caretaker of her children. Her mother assumed full responsibility for their care. Prosecutors’ refusal to even speak to my client’s mother prior to forcing my client to jail is beyond troubling.”
Use the form below to sign up for the ClickOrlando.com 4pm Trending newsletter, sent every weekday.