Autopsy report classifies 3-year-old’s death as homicide
Steamboat Springs — Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg complied with a judge’s order Tuesday and made public the autopsy report for the toddler who police believe was left alone for four days in a Steamboat Springs cabin.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Burson concluded after reviewing the toxicology test results that Austin Davis died from “severe dehydration.”
“This is represented by the electrolyte levels,” Burson wrote.
Austin’s paternal grandmother, Charity O’Konski, previously had stated Austin died from “extreme dehydration.”
Based on the toxicology tests, autopsy findings and the suspected circumstances of the death, Burson stated it was his opinion that the manner of Austin’s death was homicide.
Austin’s mother, Meghan McKeon, is being held at the Routt County Jail and has been charged with two counts of child abuse resulting in death. Police believe McKeon left Austin at home while she worked and stayed at a boyfriend’s house.
On March 27, McKeon arrived home at the Steamboat Campground cabin she was staying at, which had no running water. Austin was unresponsive and pronounced dead at Yampa Valley Medical Center a couple of hours later. Doctors initially were concerned Austin might have ingested something, but Burson did not note anything unusual in the autopsy report.
In order to report how Austin died, the Steamboat Pilot & Today on April 16 requested the autopsy and pathology reports related to the boy’s death under the Colorado Open Records Act. Ryg, who was represented by the District Attorney’s Office, filed an application two days later in district court asking the court for an order restricting public access to the reports sought by the newspaper.
During a May 21 hearing, attorneys with the District Attorney’s Office argued that releasing the records could harm the public interest in a fair trial here for McKeon and heighten public condemnation of her.
Chris Beall, a Denver attorney who represented the Steamboat Pilot & Today at the hearing, argued that Colorado lawmakers have affirmed autopsy reports are public records that must be released to the public unless they would cause injury to the public interest that the lawmakers never could have foreseen.
Routt County Public Defender Sheryl Uhlmann, who is representing McKeon, also argued the records should not be released.
At the end of the hearing, 14th Judicial District Chief Judge Michael O’Hara said Ryg did not provide any evidence that the release of Austin Davis’ autopsy report would cause substantial injury to the public interest.
“The court concludes that petitioner has failed to carry his burden of proof that the release of this record will cause ‘substantial injury’ to a public interest,” O’Hara wrote in the ruling. “Specifically, the court finds that the possibility of a change of venue, the possibility that witnesses who have not been interviewed might become reluctant to speak to law enforcement and potential ‘public condemnation,’ do not rise to the level of substantial injury to a public interest.”
In order to give interested parties the opportunity to appeal the decision to the Colorado Court of Appeals, O’Hara gave Ryg until noon Tuesday to release the record. No appeals were filed.
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