It is every parent’s worst nightmare: the death of a child. A Smith Mountain Lake man faced that heartbreak on Friday when his three-year-old son died from injuries sustained in a case that the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.
Following that tragedy, there has been an outpouring of support for the father and the family. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help with medical expenses. Various local entrepreneurs have pledged donations, fundraising events or the sale of products to help the family with medical and funeral costs.
A friend of the father organized a motorcycle ride over the weekend in memory of the child and as a fundraiser to help with costs. A T-shirt vendor, Tees and Things by Tracy, designed shirts and decals bearing the logo “#IanColeStrong” as a way to help remember the child, support the family and provide more funds to defray expenses. That hashtag, as well as #JusticeForIanCole, have been trending on social media as people support the family, express their grief and announce these support efforts.
According to a press release from the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office, Megan Paris, 30, of Gladys, “was arrested and charged with child abuse and neglect” on Thursday, when the sheriff’s office learned that the child had been “airlifted to Roanoke-Carilion Hospital with life-threatening injuries.”
The press release indicated that the “child sustained the injuries one day prior at the hands of its caregiver,” who was identified as Paris.
The investigation is ongoing, and with the subsequent death of the child, additional charges could be pending. Investigators have indicated that the type and extent of the injuries the boy sustained allegedly point to non-accidental causes.
Investigator Mike Bryant and Captain Tracy Emerson have been indicated as the investigators handling the case. The Campbell County Sheriff’s Office asked that anyone with information pertaining to this case call Bryant at 434-332-9574 or Crime Stoppers at 1-888-798-5900. If anyone prefers to report information online, the website is http://p3tips.com. Information can also be reported via mobile phone with the P3 app.
The GoFundMe campaign in support of the family titled “MES Family we need your Help!!” had raised more than $12,000 by Monday night. It is available at www.gofundme.com/f/mes-family-we-need-your-help.
An update on the GoFundMe page on Saturday included a message from the family: “Please pray for our baby boy as we send this little angel on earth to be a big boy angel in heaven. He’s touched so many lives both personally and pure strangers in his 3 beautiful years on earth. May he continue his work in heaven... we will always love you and you have no idea what you’ve done for everyone in just these last 48 hours. We love you…. Always remembered and never forgotten.”
Out of respect for the family’s privacy during their time of grief, The Smith Mountain Eagle has not included the name of the father in this article.