Carter County

Questions surround toddler's death

Sheriff: Mother was shopping, brother and cousin were watching toddler

Questions surround toddler's death

ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. - Carter County investigators are hoping an autopsy will lead to more clues into how a four-year-old boy died at a home Tuesday afternoon.

Family members describe four-year-old Coty Cox as full of life. His great aunt Betty Markland says he was easy to get attached to. "He was a sweet little thing," she told us.

Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes says the toddler was left at home with his 13-year-old cousin and 10–year-old brother Tuesday while his mother went shopping.

That's when something horrible happened inside the Lover's Lane mobile home.

Just after noon the two older boys carried the toddler to Betty Markland's house and she called 911. "He was just lifeless," describes Markland. "He handed him to me I laid him here on the couch."

Coty Cox later died at the hospital. 

Investigators are treating his death as suspicious until they can piece together the entire puzzle. "My bottom line is I have a four-year-old that is dead," said Sheriff Chris Mathes. "That doesn't sit well with us our people."

The older boys say he fell and hit his head. "They said he was jumping on the bed and he fell and hit his head on the TV stand. That's what they tell me," says Markland.

Officers want to know more about some of the things they found at the scene. "There were BB guns in the child's bedroom. We don't know if that could be a part of any injury," says Mathes.

The sheriff says they were hoping to learn more facts from an autopsy being performed Wednesday. They should have some preliminary results in 48 hours.

The sheriff also wants to know more about where the mother was and how long she was gone. According to the police report, she told officers she had not been gone very long. The report says the boys told investigators she'd been gone an hour or two.

The sheriff says leaving children with a teenager is not necessarily criminal, "But you are asking him to watch after a 10-year-old and a four-year-old. At what point does it become too much?" asked Mathes.

Coty Cox's father was in the Carter County Detention Center on unrelated minor charges. The sheriff says he was given a furlough from jail to spend time with his family.

Family members say four-year-old Coty's death is a horrible tragedy, something Betty Markland will never forget. "I closed my eyes and I couldn't sleep. I could see him laid out there his face before me," says Markland.

We're told funeral services are being handled by Tetrick Funeral Home in Elizabethton.

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