In 2012 an official report stated that in the state of Florida the leading cause of death for children, ages one to four, was drowning. They were among, if not, the highest in the nation when it came to the drowning of children. Of course it is reasonable to believe this to be true since so many homes have pools of their own due to the weather and then of course the ocean nearly surrounding the state. While so many of us have wondered how Casey Anthony's attorney's were able to get her a not guilty verdict, these statistics may have played a role. If you remember the Anthony case, which so many of us who are fascinated by true crime are, you remember that her attorney's gave out the theory that Caylee had drowned in the family pool, that her death was an accident and that it was covered up by Casey, with the help of her father. The people on that jury were probably used to hearing about children drowning in pools. The vast majority of these drownings are not intentional, I would gander to guess that many are not even due to true neglect. While many argue that you should never take your eye off a young child at all, especially when there are dangers such as this for the child, but accidents do truly happen.
Initially investigators would rule the death of seven year old, Adrianna Hutto as just that, a drowning accident. Her mother, Amanda Lewis would call 911 on August 8, 2007 from her Esto Florida home to report that she had fallen into the pool and was not breathing. She attempted CPR while she awaited for the ambulance to get there. Adrianna was flown to another hospital where doctors and nurses worked on her for just over an hour before pronouncing her dead.
I will be the first to admit that names and relationships in the case were hard to figure out. It appears that Hutto was possibly Amanda's maiden name. Both Adrianna and her six year old brother, A.J. carried this name and yet information stated they were half siblings. Adrianna's obituary was posted on the Findagrave website and no father was listed. There were two sets of grandparents however, Billy and Debbie Hutto and Brenda and Chuck Burns. Brenda is Amanda's mother so I can only assume that Billy is her dad and their spouses were Amanda's step-parents. The other confusing thing was the obituary stated that she was survived by a stepfather, Alan Carnley and two step siblings. This is the only area in which I found anything that indicated that there was a man involved in Amanda's life. There seemed to be nothing indicating that anyone other than Amanda, Adrianna and A.J. lived in the home so I can only assume that Amanda was separated from her husband, although that is obviously not clear and I am still left with a name confusion. Maybe a reader here can clarify this.
At any rate within a short period Amanda's stepfather, Chuck Burns would arrive at the home and fairly quickly would take A.J. with him back to his home while Amanda went to the hospital with Adrianna. Chuck would play a large role in what would later happen. Within hours he would go to authorities and claim that A.J. had told him that Amanda had held Adrianna under the water and drowned her. A.J. was first interviewed by the police and then later he spoke to a detective who specialized in speaking with children. It would be said that A.J stated “Mama dunked my sister.” He claimed Amanda had gotten mad at Adrianna for spraying glass cleaner in the house. One statement he made said “she done some stuff that she ain't supposed to so my Mama got mad so she throwed her in the pool.” He would claim that she repeatedly dunked Adrianna in the pool.
The problem was that A.J. kept changing his story. Sometimes the kids had gone to the park (there is no evidence of this) and sometimes Amanda dunked Adrianna before they went to the park, and sometimes she dunked her after they returned. This information, no matter how reliable or not prompted the police to look a little more closely at Amanda and her home.
Upon searching the home, investigators would say that there was a strong urine smell throughout the house. When they looked in the kids' room(s) there were no toys in there. It was claimed that Amanda told the investigators that she had removed the toys as punishment for not cleaning their room and had stored them in the locked shed. Pictures from the shed show the ladder to the pool that was said to be stored there when not in use, but showed no evidence of toys.
When asked about her relationship with her daughter, Amanda admitted that she struggled with raising Adrianna. First it appears that mother and child did not get to bond in the normal way. Amanda was a member of the National Guard and when Adrianna was about six months old she was sent to serve a tour it seems. I was not able to determine where she went or how long she was gone beyond, several months. Amanda also openly admitted that the seven year old girl had behavior problems and was difficult to control. She had been diagnosed with ADHD and at some point had spent a week at a behavioral hospital, however I found no specifics that said when this occurred or what happened prior or during her time there. Some co-workers of Amanda's would tell the police about three months before Adrianna's death Amanda had come to work furious with her. She was quoted as saying she wanted to “kill” her because she had taken a permanent marker to her new car. Amanda openly admits not just being furious but saying what her co-workers alleged she stated but also claims that it was just one of those things people say but would never follow through with.
Investigators would also talk to the doctor and nurse at the hospital in which Adrianna had died. They would claim that Amanda's behavior was odd and that she showed little emotion at the death of her child. One doctor would claim that they talked to Amanda about what was going on at the moment (presumably they were still attempting to revive Adrianna) and that when asked if she had any questions Amanda replied with asking where the vending machines were located.
Despite the fact that Amanda agreed to and apparently passed a lie detector test another thing bothered officers. Amanda had had another child die. When she was a teenager she had a son named Alex. When he was sixteen months old he was napping when he stopped breathing. An autopsy was performed and the cause of death was listed as a seizure disorder.
Putting all of this together prosecutors decided to charge Amanda for the murder of her child. The prosecution star witness was her other child. Her trial would begin in February of 2008. When A.J. entered the courtroom he had not seen Amanda for about six months and he did not recognize her. He told the defense attorney his mother was not in the courtroom. When the prosecutor stood back up and pointed her out to him he began to cry. According to the defense “Every time A.J. was asked what happened he gave a different answer, every single time.” And yet the prosecution relied on him and the story he told.
Many supporters of Amanda's, including her father, stepmother and even her mother would suspect that her stepfather, Chuck Burns had heavily influenced A.J. to recite the story of what happened that day. Brenda Burns would ultimately divorce Chuck Burns and while the reason was not completely clear it is hard to imagine that this did not have something to do with it. According to Brenda Burns, and openly admitted by Chuck Burns, he was not a “fan” of Amanda's. The two had a very troubled relationship and did not get long very well. Chuck would say that he did not like her or how she treated her children but he would deny coercing A.J. to blame his mother for murder.
The only other thing the prosecutor really had to go on was a doctor who would claim that Adrianna had suffered from bruises on her forehead that seemed to be consistent with being held under water. The sad thing is that this was only mentioned it seemed in passing and very little attention given to it so very little information was to be had on this issue. It seemed as if they just needed a line somewhere in the trial that made at least one of A.J.'s stories true.
For the defense's part, it was two fold. First they would related the story that Amanda seemingly stuck to the entire time (and in fairness continues to relate). Her claim was that she had planned to take the children out shopping for school supplies that day and had allowed them to go outside and play while she got ready to do. She would allege that while she was inside A.J. came inside and told her that Adrianna was in the pool but she thought he really just meant near the pool and told him to tell her to come inside. As he went outside to retrieve Adrianna, Amanda looked out the window and saw that Adrianna really was in the pool and she ran outside. While she proclaimed her innocence the defense also had to discredit the testimony of a now seven year old boy. They would show evidence that A.J. was developmentally delayed and was easily confused. They wanted the jury to see that A.J. changed his story often and did not have the facts straight.
In the end the jury did not believe the defense and after a four day trial they convicted Amanda on charges of first degree murder and aggravated child abuse. They took two hours, and that included lunch, to come to their decision. She was ultimately given a life sentence for the first degree murder and thirty years for the aggravated child abuse charges. It was later said that prosecutors had offered her a ten year sentence prior to her trial if she were to plead guilty and she had rejected that offer saying she would not confess to a crime she had not committed. In 2010 her conviction and sentence were affirmed.
This became one of those blogs in which I tried to watch my wording a bit while I composed it so that the facts were laid out and attempted to leave my opinion of this case a secret til the end. I am unsure just how well I did in that. I have major issues with this case. I cannot tell you for a fact if Amanda Lewis is guilty or innocent of the crime she was convicted. I can say that I do not believe that her trial was in any way fair, or showed that she was guilty. While doing my research on this case I saw pictures that were taken by authorities of the home, the shed and the pool. The pool itself was a four foot above ground pool, but one of the soft sided type that are basically “blow ups.” The ladder to the pool was found in the shed and there was no evidence that it had been left out.
I agree that there was ample evidence that Adrianna was a difficult child and if we were to believe A.J. who, in one of his statements stated that Amanda had gotten angry with Adrianna I could possibly believe that she was guilty. However, I do not believe that A.J. was in any way mature enough or reliable enough to testify as being the only witness to this supposed crime. There were comments made that some of his “stories” were so detailed that they could have only been told by a child who had been led on what to say. But then again A.J. was not consistent in his stories. Obviously Amanda was not a perfect mother. She said and did things that were not likely the right thing to do or say but what mother has not done things they should not? How many of us have said we could just kill someone for something they have done... child or not... and not mean it? It appears that when this was said her co-workers were not worried it was a legitimate threat or that Adrianna was in danger. Nothing in my research ever stated anything about Child Protective Services being involved in any way with the family. Adrianna obviously went to school where teachers would have noticed things if Amanda was as reckless as the prosecutor wanted the jury to believe. The fact that she was on medication and had been in a behavioral hospital indicates there were others that are mandated reporters that if they saw anything suspicious they would be required to report and yet I found nothing. And, I truly believe if there had been I would have found a reference to it. I have done several cases here that involve the death of a child in which the local Child Protective Services have been raked over the coals for ending a case too soon or not paying enough attention. And yet I saw not one word pertaining to this case.
No, Amanda Lewis was given a life sentence in prison and labeled a murderer on the word of a 7 year old child who not only could not tell the same story twice but did not even recognize his mother who he had not seen in six months in a courtroom. This same child who did not remember what his mother looked like remembered how that same woman drowned his sister.... and then maybe the three of them went to the park.