Board reviews 2 child deaths

In less than six months, two Johnson County children died accidentally under similar circumstances.

Earlier this month, 2-year-old Grace Hartman died after her head became stuck between the rails of her custom-made bed at her Center Grove area home, a preliminary investigation has shown.

Her death comes less than four months after 11-year-old Tyler Lukins, who had Down syndrome, was found unresponsive with his head stuck between the slats of a crib.

Both deaths have been deemed accidents, Coroner Craig Lutz said.

And both are being looked into by the county’s child fatality review board, made up of employees from the department of child services, the prosecutor’s office, police and fire departments, the coroner, hospital staff and doctors.

The investigation is not criminal in nature. Rather, the tragic deaths merit review in order to determine if they could have been prevented and whether any public education is necessary, officials said.

The two children had different sleeping arrangements, Lutz said.

Tyler, who police said functioned as a 1-year-old, did not speak and used a wheelchair, was sleeping in a crib.

Police are still investigating Grace’s death, but believe she somehow got her head stuck between rails on her custom-made bed.

But both meet the criteria to be reviewed, said deputy prosecutor Ryan Bland, who is a member of that review board.

The goal of the board is to ensure there was nothing that could have been done to prevent the death. And if the board determines the deaths could have been prevented, they can work with the state on public education, he said.

“A lot of it is community awareness,” Bland said.

“When the community can be made aware of something in order to help prevent some of these deaths, that is one of the jobs of the board.”

So far, the board has met once and reviewed Tyler’s case and the deaths of the Franklin teens at the dam in Edinburgh in 2014, Bland said.

And so far, none of the deaths have involved an issue the county can address locally, Bland said.

But each of the cases is sent to the state for review, and if they find something could have been done, they have even more resources for education and awareness, Bland said.

The local board reviews all information collected, including medical records, police reports, death certificates and any investigations or reports from the Indiana Department of Child Services. Bland has not yet reviewed the most recent death, he said.

Board members will review both recent deaths and look for similarities, and anything that may have been missed or overlooked in Tyler’s death. Their goal will be to look for anything that could have been changed to prevent either of the deaths, he said.

If anything is found, the board will work to get the message out to the community, he said.

“That’s the greatest responsibility of the board,” Bland said.

Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2718.