Omaha great-grandmother accused of negligence in baby’s drowning seemed disoriented, police say

Omaha great-grandmother accused of negligence in baby’s drowning seemed disoriented, police say
Sandra Laravie

An Omaha woman seemed lethargic, confused and disoriented when speaking to police after her 4-month-old great-granddaughter drowned, an investigator testified Monday.

Sandra Laravie, 62, will stand trial on one count of negligent child abuse resulting in death, a judge ruled. If convicted, she faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Laravie is accused of leaving her great-granddaughter, Zavara Taylor, in the bathtub on Aug. 22, 2018. When Laravie returned from fetching a towel in the bedroom, Zavara had fallen from a water hammock and was submerged in the water, Laravie told police.

A brown bathmat had slipped over the baby’s face.

Laravie tried to wake the baby and laid her down in the crib, then another hard surface and performed CPR. When that didn’t work, she went outside, found a neighbor and asked her to call 911 because Laravie didn’t have a phone.

The infant was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Omaha Police Detective Mick Seymour arrived at the home near 24th and Mary Streets after the child was taken to the hospital, which was about 11 a.m. Aug. 22.

He testified that he saw a marijuana bong in the middle of the bathroom floor and that another officer had found a bottle of sleeping pills. There were twice as many pills missing than the prescribed dosage of one per day, based on when the prescription was filled, Seymour said.

Seymour interviewed Laravie about what had happened. She spoke more generally about her day-to-day responsibilities as the caretaker of Zavara while the girl’s parents were at work, Seymour said.

“She appeared to be somewhat confused and slightly disoriented,” Seymour testified. “She took an unusual amount of time to answer simple questions and didn’t initially understand the seriousness of the situation.”

Laravie told police she took a sleeping pill at 9 p.m. the night before and maybe had a beer at 5 or 6 p.m. but said she did not use marijuana. A preliminary breath test showed no alcohol use. Officials did not administer any drug test.

The baby’s mother later told police that she usually woke Laravie up at 5 a.m. to care for the infant while she took the baby’s father to work. Then the mother would return and get ready for work. She said Laravie appeared confused and wasn’t acting as she normally did, Seymour testified.

The mother spoke to a relative next door and asked that she check on the baby and Laravie during the day because of the unusual behavior, Seymour said. The relative didn’t make it to the house before the drowning, he said.

Defense attorney Brian Craig argued that the baby’s mother shouldn’t have left her daughter with Laravie if she thought something was wrong. Also, Craig said Laravie didn’t do anything unusual and didn’t act recklessly — she just left the bathroom briefly.

William Tangeman, assistant Nebraska attorney general and special prosecutor for Douglas County, said the mother’s actions are irrelevant and that leaving a baby in the bathtub long enough that the child could drown is a “justifiable risk” that Laravie should have been aware of.

“She allowed the child to drown,” Tangeman said. “That meets the definition of negligent child abuse.”

Nearly a dozen relatives attended the hearing in support of Laravie, who is out of jail on her own recognizance. They and Laravie declined to comment after the hearing.