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Autopsy says dead toddler had been burned

Mother claimed it was frostbite

Posted: December 9, 2013 - 1:03am

FAIRBANKS — An autopsy of an 18-month-old North Pole boy concludes that he suffered burns to his body but not frostbite, as his mother claimed.

Amber Lynn Aubrey Swanson, 24, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her son, Julian Swanson-Byrd. She told staff at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital that the toddler had fallen from a car window into snow the day before he died, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Swanson was arraigned Thursday. She remains jailed at Fairbanks Correctional Center.

Swanson late Sunday night appeared at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital with the boy’s body and said he had died the day before.

According to a criminal complaint, she told hospital staff that she was trying to calm Julian down Friday and took him on a ride. She stopped at a gravel pit east of Fairbanks, she said, and fell asleep. When she awoke, she said, the car window was open and the boy was in snow next to her car.

The boy was cold but alive, she said. She wrapped him in a blanket and took him home but he died the next day, she said.

The medical examiner concluded Julian had not suffered frostbite, but “what had appeared to be frostbite on the upper extremities (of the boy’s body) were actually thermal burns.”

The cause of death, the medical examiner said, was blunt force trauma to the head. Julian also had extensive bruising on his body, the medical examiner said.

Swanson was charged Tuesday. No possible motive was listed in the criminal complaint.

Swanson carried a propane torch in her vehicle, the complaint said. She was an amateur boxer who competed locally. Swanson at arraignment requested a public defender.

Leah Byrd, a sister-in-law of the boy’s father, said Swanson’s family has received hate mail since the arrest.

“We’re very saddened to have lost Julian who had touched so many lives,” she said. “He was a sweet little boy who was part of the family for such a short amount of time. We would appreciate it at this time if members of the public would be supportive to both members of the Byrd and the Swanson families. They have lost a child also in this.”

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