I-TEAM INVESTIGATION: Georgia ranks high in child maltreatment deaths

Published: Apr. 24, 2019 at 6:53 PM EDT
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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

News 12 at 6 o'clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A 7-year-old was shot dead in Newberry County and a 2-year-old killed last week in Richmond County.

If it seems like News 12 is constantly reporting about a child dying, it's because we are. Georgia ranks as one of the highest in the nation for child deaths.

Several local children have died in the last six months. Some died in accidents, others are victims of murder.

On April 3, Ja'Ziah Pollard celebrated her second birthday.

“She be there dancing and singing that's the last thing,” said Jackie Ingram. “That's the last thing she did."

On April 16, Ja'ziah Pollard was shot dead.

Jackie Ingram can't sleep.

"I want her back," said Ingram.

There's no escape from her living nightmare and she doesn’t want to talk about what happened.

"I don't want to talk about it I don't want to talk about it," said Ingram.

Her pain is raw and the memory is too fresh but investigators say it started as an argument between Ingram and her boyfriend. She didn’t know he had a gun.

Investigators say Marquie Gunter started firing at her house. All four of her children were inside.

“I just keep replaying back over and over her laying on the floor," said Ingram.

Ja'Ziah is the eighth Richmond County child to die due to violence, neglect or abuse since January.

Mark Bowen will never forget responding to a Texaco gas station as a deputy in 2007. Deputies say a mother had locked her one and three year old in the bathroom and stabbed them to death. Investigating children's death never got any easier when became the coroner.

"I always said if this doesn't bother you then you are in the wrong business," said Bowen.

Bowen has been working with other county leaders to decrease children's deaths in our area. From 2013 to 2017, children's deaths have decreased 45% but that's not good enough. Georgia ranks 5th in the nation for the number of children dying from maltreatment. That's 60% higher than the national average.

"Safety taking care of your children be careful what you do around your children. It's like a very numb feeling and it’s an empty feeling like my heart hurts,” said Ingram.

The pain will never go away for her or the families of these children. Lawmakers in South Carolina made it a requirement for each county to create a child fatality review board last year. This comes after child maltreatment deaths jumped 64%.

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