A Greencastle woman whose 2-year-old granddaughter drowned in the family's backyard swimming pool earlier this summer is facing criminal charges after police say she withheld information concerning the case.
According to a police report, Beverly Lawler initially told investigators she and her granddaughter, Serinity L. Hammer, were the only ones at home when the little girl entered the swimming pool undetected and drowned on July 10. She told police she had gone in the house to retrieve a diaper and clothes for the little girl and that when she returned, she found the girl floating face down in the pool.
After Lawler's initial interview, police received a tip that Lawler may have been caring for more than one child on the day of the drowning. Lawler was interviewed a second time and, according to a police report, told investigators she was caring for five children. This too, police say, was false.
Greencastle Police Detective Randy Seipel told the BannerGraphic Tuesday that according to the children who were at Lawler's home that day, and their parents, Lawler was in fact caring for 10 children. This included two infants, several toddlers and a couple of school-aged children.
"That information was never provided by her to us," Seipel said of Lawler.
On Tuesday, Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter charged Lawler with obstruction of justice, a class D felony; operating a daycare without a license, a class B misdemeanor; and neglect of a dependent resulting in death, a class C felony.
Bookwalter said he could have charged the neglect as an A felony but felt the lesser C was more appropriate in this case.
The law requires caregivers to receive a license if they care for more than six children at one time, the prosecutor said.
Lawler told police she believed the law allowed only five children and so she limited herself to that number.
"How can you effectively supervise that many children when there's a pool present?" Seipel said. "How does one adult supervise all those children?"
With that said, Seipel still believes the death was an accident, however, he took issue with the fact that Lawler allegedly lied to police and withheld information that was pertinent to the case.
"It's a tragic situation, but we have the responsibility to investigate it as thoroughly as we can," Seipel said.
Police were able to corroborate that Lawler left Serinity, wearing her bathing suit and water wings, sitting on the back patio of the home for an undetermined amount of time. It is believed the girl removed the water wings and then entered the swimming pool where it is estimated she was face down in the water for between two and four minutes.
Neighbors rushed to the home where they performed CPR on the girl. She was airlifted to an Indianapolis hospital and, according to a police report, was taken off life support the following day.
Lawler was the legal guardian of Serinity.
Seipel hand-delivered a summons to Lawler's residence Tuesday. She is expected to appear in court later this month.