Never leave a baby alone in the bathtub.
As mothers, not only is this basic tenet of parenting simply instinctual, but it’s also one of the first things we’re taught when we begin babysitting, or, failing that experience, when we become pregnant. Babies drown very easily in bathtubs. A baby can drown in a sink, in a puddle, even in a single inch of water. Hell, babies have even drowned in mop buckets; Google it if you don’t believe me. To most of us, it’s a foregone conclusion that we would never leave a baby unsupervised in the bath.
Apparently, no one ever taught this lesson to 32-year-old single mother Lindsee Louise Leonardo, or perhaps she thought 23-month-old Sophia counted as “supervision,” because she left Sophia and her 11-month-old brother, Aiden, on their own in the bathtub on Wednesday, January 8 with about four to six inches of water. Now, why would she have done that, you may ask? Was there a fire in another room? Did she hear a bloodcurdling scream outside and run to check on the source? Was she hurrying to defend her children from a burglar who had just smashed a window?
Nope, nope, and nope. According to police, the reason Lindsee left her children alone in the bathtub in their home on the 1200 block of Boyd Station Road in Knoxville, Tennessee is so dumb it made my head spin. According to Lindsee’s arrest warrant, she told police she left Sophia and Aiden alone in the bathtub while she headed outside for ten minutes of “me time,” which included smoking a cigarette and listening to two songs on her phone. (I really want to know what songs she listened to.)
Now, don’t get me wrong; as a mother, I have learned that “me time” is absolutely vital to my mental health. In fact, experts say the same thing: self-care is an important part of parenting. Common sense would dictate, however, that “make self-care a priority” does not equate to “your health and wellness is more important than the safety of your child.” You wouldn’t prioritize your “me time” if your kid was playing on a set of train tracks and a locomotive was barreling toward him, would you? Well, neither should you sashay out for a ciggie and leave your baby in the fucking bathtub. I must reiterate my earlier opinion: DUH.
After Lindsee got her fix of both nicotine and sweet tunes, she returned to the bathroom to find Aiden floating face-up in a tub brimming with water and Sophia standing beside him. Lindsee claimed Sophia must have turned on the faucet, causing the tub to fill up. She told police she took her unresponsive son out of the tub and put him on her bed, calling 911 and performing CPR with guidance from the dispatcher.
(Side note: I got my CPR certification last year. For the love of God, don’t do CPR on a bed. Floor or other hard surface only, people!)
EMTs from American Medical Response arrived and rushed Aiden to Tennova Turkey Creek Medical Center, where they were able to regain a heartbeat. Later, Aiden was transferred to the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, where, tragically, he died just before 9:30 PM on Thursday, January 9.
Knoxville County spokesperson Kimberly Glenn said, “Our hearts are saddened at the loss. We expect additional charges to be forthcoming. As for now, the investigation is continuing.”
Prior to Aiden’s death, Lindsee faced charges of aggravated child abuse, neglect, and endangerment. Knox County Sheriff’s Office Family Crimes and Major Crimes detectives arrested Lindsee at the hospital on Thursday for the initial charges. Now that Aiden has died, she faces charges of felony aggravated child abuse and first-degree murder. She hasn’t entered pleas to any of her charges, but she is being represented by Knoxville attorney Susan Shipley. Lindsee is being held at the Knox County Detention Center on a $350,000 bond and has a preliminary hearing on January 21.
According to court records, Lindsee has a history of conflict with Aiden’s father, 31-year-old David Brandon Dillingham. In May of 2019, David filed for an order of protection against Lindsee on the grounds that she “followed me home” and “comes to my place of work […] and cusses me in front of my coworkers.” His petition was dismissed by the court because he did not prove his case by a preponderance of evidence.
In October, Lindsee filed for her own order of protection against David, telling the court “my relationship with David has been traumatic from the beginning.” In the petition, she accused David of threatening to harm the children. The case was dismissed for the same reason David’s was.
Despite these issues, since Aiden’s death, David has defended Lindsee in the press. “It was just an accident,” he said. “Lindsey is not to blame for this. She just made a bad judgment call, even though it was the wrong time, but she’s a great mother and does anything and everything for our babies.” Even though the couple is estranged and, according to David, he and Lindsee often did not “see eye to eye,” he doesn’t want her to go to prison. He added that he is devastated by the loss of his son and best friend. “Please watch your children very closely. Every second counts. And you can’t take anything for granted.”
Aiden Xavier Leonardo was born on January 29, 2019. According to his obituary, he was “one of a kind and always smiling, laughing and loving. He was a blessing to everyone who came in contact with him.”
David told CNN that “there are no words to describe the happiness he brought into our lives and I am proud he is my son.”
Sophia is currently in the care of her grandparents.
Honestly, I just can’t see Lindsee’s first-degree murder charge sticking. My guess is that she and her attorney will plead that charge down to second-degree murder or manslaughter. In my opinion, for what it’s worth, first-degree murder seems like a bit of a reach based on the evidence that has been released thus far, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
The bottom line is that an 11-month-old baby is dead, the promise and potential of his entire life is wasted, a little girl has to grow up without her younger brother, a father has lost his son, and a mom with at best terrible judgment and at worst evil in her heart is facing hard time in prison. This is a tragedy all around, no matter how you slice it.
Somehow, I doubt Lindsee thinks her ten minutes of “me time” was worth the cost.
A graveside service for Aiden will be held on Saturday, January 18. David’s sister has created a small Facebook fundraiser to help with funeral costs and other expenses related to Aiden’s death; please consider donating if you can spare it. Also, David has started a petition on Change.org, gathering signatures to ask lawmakers to create Aiden’s Law, which would require new parents to take CPR and other child safety classes. Who can’t get behind that cause?
I will post updates as I find them; click here for my future/ongoing coverage of Aiden’s case.
Sources: WATE; People; WBIR; CNN; Facebook; NewsChannel 9; Dignity Memorial