Grand jury to hear case involving infant's death

RUSSELLVILLE – A Logan County man whose 5-month-old daughter died this summer changed his story when law enforcement questioned him over a three-month period, a detective testified Thursday.

The case against Michael Anthony Thigpen was sent to a grand jury after a preliminary hearing Thursday in Logan District Court.

Thigpen, 32, of Auburn, was arrested on charges of second-degree manslaughter and three counts each of first-degree wanton endangerment, tampering with physical evidence and neglect.

The Logan County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated the case, has not released the name of the infant who died, but an online obituary posted by a Portland, Tenn., funeral home shows a 5-month-old baby, Emma Grace Thigpen, died June 10 in Auburn and lists Michael Thigpen as her father.

Detective Charles Dauley of the Logan County Sheriff’s Office testified at Thursday’s hearing, saying that the child died of hyperthermia after EMS received a report of three unresponsive children at 100 Belcher Drive, Lot 26, in Auburn.

The infant’s 18-month-old and 2-year-old sisters also experienced heat-related medical issues, according to Thigpen’s arrest citation, and were treated at The Medical Center at Bowling Green and Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

Dauley testified that Thigpen initially told law enforcement that the children were sleeping in one end of the trailer where they lived and he was sleeping at the other end of the trailer.

Thigpen claimed the air conditioner unit in the room where the children were sleeping “flickered” and lost power, causing the room to get hotter, Dauley said.

Questioned by Logan County Attorney Joe Ross, Dauley said detectives interviewed Thigpen on Sept. 28, at which point he told police he had been awake for about 24 hours and had taken his wife to work and driven home, falling asleep inside the residence.

“The children had been left in the back of the van,” Dauley said.

Several hours after falling asleep, Thigpen woke up to “a bunch of frantic texts from his wife” and found that the children had been left in the van, Dauley said.

“He brought the children into the trailer, gave them Pedialyte through a syringe and put cold rags on them,” Dauley said.

Public defender William Maddox II, who is representing Thigpen, asked Dauley why moving the children from the van to the trailer and attempting to cool them down constituted tampering with physical evidence, and the detective responded that Thigpen was attempting to conceal from law enforcement that the children were harmed by being left in the van.

Maddox argued for the tampering charges to be dismissed.

“I think it wouldn’t be unusual at all for my client not to be thinking completely clearly,” Maddox said about the allegation that the children were moved from the van to the trailer. “One would think he’d be freaking out.”

Logan District Judge Kenneth Williams did not find probable cause on two of the three tampering counts and one of the wanton endangerment counts, while acknowledging that the commonwealth’s attorney’s office could present those allegations to the grand jury.