Jacksonville woman charged with child abuse, neglect in death of 5-month-old

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.Disclaimer: Some of the details included in this story are graphic. Discretion advised.

A Jacksonville woman was arrested and charged with child abuse and child neglect in connection with the death of a 5-month-old boy, according to a police report obtained Thursday by News4JAX.

Officers with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said the child was found unresponsive Dec. 11 at an apartment complex on Duval Road, and that a parent rushed the child to a hospital where he died. The report said doctors found the infant to be emaciated and weighed only 7 pounds, so they called JSO.

When police arrived, the report states, Tania McGowan, 23, had left UF Health. Detectives said they spoke with doctors, who said the baby’s cheeks were sunken in, his stomach caved and his rib cage protruding.

The report states that police located McGowan, who told police that she woke up at 11 a.m. on Dec. 11, but didn’t check on the baby until 2 p.m. and saw he was sleeping. She told police she brought a bottle of formula to him at 6 p.m. and found he was unresponsive and cold to the touch.

The report states that investigators checked surveillance video at the apartment complex and found an incident of abuse in the common area of the clubhouse on Dec. 6. In the video, the report states, McGowan is seen repeatedly slapping the baby in the head and face, and twisting his head, then covering his face with a large pillow and walking away.

According to the report, an autopsy was performed on the boy, and while results are still pending, the medical examiner determined the child was severely malnourished and dehydrated, and that there was no evidence of food in his stomach or intestines.

When McGowan was questioned again on Dec. 14, the report shows, she told police that she noticed the baby was “slimming down,” but she thought he looked that way because he was growing in length.

McGowan was held in the Duval County jail on a $1.5 million bond.

News4JAX spoke with Dr. Justin D’Arienzo, a clinical and forensic psychologist, who spoke about factors that can lead to child abuse. D’Arienzo says those factors can be societal—to parental.

“Some of the societal factors are violence and poverty and the factors related to the parent would be substance abuse, mental health problems or if they’ve been abused themselves or lack of parenting skills,” he explained.

D’Arienzo says it’s key for friends and family to check in on new parents.

“One of the best things people can do is make sure that person has support, because that’s another risk factor — not having enough support,” he said.

About the Authors:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.