An 8-year-old boy who died and whose body was abandoned by his mother in their Baltimore County townhouse had made Maryland history six years ago when he received the state's largest medical malpractice settlement -- up to $25.9 million.
Jerome R. Durant Jr.'s mother told police yesterday that she could not accept the death of her child -- who had severe brain damage -- so she left the boy in the bed where he died in their Woodlawn apartment.
The mother, Veronica Joann Jones, 31, came to the Towson precinct with her attorney about 12:30 a.m. yesterday and said ++ she had left Jerome's body in the Heatherton Court townhouse because she was too distraught to bury him, police said.
Police said last night that they were aware of the large financial settlement Jerome received in December 1988. But there do not appear to be any obvious signs of foul play, police said.
"Unless the autopsy results prove that the death was not from natural causes, there won't be any charges placed against her," Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, county police spokesman, said of Ms. Jones. "There were no signs of trauma or abuse as far as we know."
An autopsy was to be performed on the boy's body, he said.
Deputy State's Attorney Ann Brobst said it appears that the boy's mother did not violate any laws.
"There may be some sort administrative regulation against abandoning a body," Ms. Brobst said. "But I know that there's nothing in the criminal code against it. Given the fact that the preliminary autopsy showed there was no foul play, the child was not abused . . . we're not going to follow other avenues to pursue other charges."
Jerome was 2 1/2 when he and his mother were awarded the multi- million dollar settlement for alleged doctors' errors that left the boy brain-damaged at birth.
The suit claimed doctors at Maryland General Hospital ignored clear signs that his mother, who was three weeks past due, should have been given a Caesarean section when a fetal monitor showed the baby's heart was sluggish. Instead, the suit said, they gave her a drug that inadvertently deprived the baby of oxygen.
Jerome was unable to speak, hear, see or move normally. His mother, in a 1988 interview with The Sun after receiving the award, said, "The last two years have been extremely hard. He [Jerome] takes up all my time. He's constantly with me. My social life has stopped. Although I love him to death, it's been extremely hard on me."
The boy and his mother immediately received a $581,589 cash award and an annuity paying monthly installments of $9,155, initially with 3 percent annual increases for inflation.
Ms. Jones said at the time that the large settlement was going to enable her to afford private nurses and therapists, the best doctors and expensive equipment, including a wheelchair lift van and a crane capable of lifting her son from bed to wheelchair.
The boy's decomposing body was discovered by a maintenance man during a routine inspection of the townhouse. A wheelchair stood next to the bed, police said.
Police had been searching for Ms. Jones, who moved out of her Stratton Meadows community townhouse early in September, according to neighbors.
Police said Ms. Jones did not leave a forwarding address but was seen by neighbors Tuesday picking up belongings.
At the time of the death, Ms. Jones was living in the home with her son and two daughters, ages 2 and 3.
The family is now staying with relatives, but police refused to disclose their whereabouts.
Attempts to reach Ms. Jones were unsuccessful, and her attorney, Thomas J. S. Waxter, refused to comment yesterday.
The boy's body was the second found on Heatherton Court since Saturday.
The first was that of Raycol Lavette Harris, a hairdresser who died of gunshot wounds Saturday night, shortly after calling 911 to report that an intruder was breaking into her home.
Police are still looking for her killer.
Police said the incidents were unrelated, but many residents said they were still worried about their safety.
"I just renewed my lease this month," said James Lot, 46, a mail carrier and two-year resident of the community. "If this had happened last month, I would never have renewed it."