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Foster mom avoids murder charge in toddler's death

Published: Fri, October 30, 2009 @ 12:10 a.m.

By Ed Runyan

The dead girl’s biological family takes exception to the manslaughter charge.

WARREN — The woman charged with killing her 20-month-old foster child last April in a Champion duplex smothered the girl and grabbed her neck tight enough to leave ring marks on her skin, the Trumbull County prosecutor’s office said Thursday.

But that isn’t evidence that Bonnie Pattinson, 31, intended to kill Tiffany Banks Cross, said Diane Barber, assistant county prosecutor.

That conclusion resulted Thursday in Pattinson’s pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter, which will result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years. The original charges of murder and felonious assault on which she was indicted could have landed her in prison for life.

“There is no evidence that she intended to kill the child,” Barber said after the hearing, explaining why Pattinson was allowed to plead guilty to the lesser offense.

Pattinson will be sentenced by Judge John M. Stuard in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court in four to six weeks, once the county Adult Probation Department conducts a presentence investigation. Pattinson remains in Trumbull County Jail on $1 million bond.

The child’s death has been shrouded in mystery since it happened April 2. Her obituary gave no indication that the death was suspicious or that the girl was in foster care when she died, saying only that she died of natural causes, was the daughter of Thomas Cross and Felicia Banks and that she was survived by two siblings.

Meanwhile, a Champion police report indicated that the girl had suspicious marks on her body when paramedics arrived. Pattinson told police at the time that Tiffany had been asleep about 10 to 20 minutes, and when she checked on her, she wasn’t breathing.

Tiffany was pronounced dead later at the hospital.

The Trumbull County coroner, Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, ruled in July the death was a homicide and said she died of asphyxiation associated with multiple blunt-force injuries.

By this time, Cross and Banks came forward to say that they were the child’s biological parents but that Tiffany had been taken from them at birth and had been reared by foster parents under the supervision of the Trumbull County Children’s Board.

They had not seen the child since the previous November, when they lost permanent custody, and wanted answers as to what happened, they said.

Loretta Banks, Felicia Banks’ mother, said she was further frustrated Thursday to learn that Pattinson had been offered the plea agreement and appeared in court Thursday without the Banks family’s knowledge.

They had attended all of Pattinson’s earlier hearings and thought Pattinson’s next one was today, Loretta Banks said.

“I think they should never have given her an offer like that,” Loretta Banks said. “You can get five years doing drug deals, and she murders a child and gets only 10 — and maybe not even that,” she said.



1Left2right4(35 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

Murder for hire??? Pattinson was paid by Trumbull County Children's Board as a foster parent when the child died. Trumbull County Children's Board should be held responsible for death of this child.

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2Siouxi(122 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

"...grabbed her neck tight enough to leave ring marks on her skin, the Trumbull County prosecutor’s office said Thursday."

“There is no evidence that she intended to kill the child,” Barber said after the hearing, explaining why Pattinson was allowed to plead guilty to the lesser offense.

Ok, grabbing someone's neck tight enough to leave ring marks sounds like you intend to kill someone, wouldn't you agree? So, child abusers & murderers can say they didn't MEAN to hurt the kid. This is wrong.

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3queenie(12 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

It amazes me that all of a sudden the parents and grandmother are concerned about this child, They gave up total custody of the child and have not seen her since November. I realize that what happened to this child was horrible and there is no excuse for it but for these people to think they should have anything to say about the case is a joke. They need to crawl back into their hole and let the courts take care of it. Where was the Trumbull County Childrens Board and how long has this woman been a foster parent?

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4MurfeeMart(15 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

Queenie, you took the words out of my mouth....I have the same reaction to the involvement of the family......Where were they when this child needed them most?.....I think they should all be barred from the courtroom because they will find a way to sue the Trumbull County Childrens Board even though they gave up total custody of this baby...I am so sorry for this child and can't imagine this happening to my child or grandchild.....NO ONE will or would have taken care of my reponsibilities......Shame on this family, they have NO family values.........NONE

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5anothermike(227 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

My first question is why was she in foster care? It is apparent that the trailer park trash real parents were not capable of properly raising this poor child. Second question: What criteria does the Children's services board require. This low-life doesn't look any capable of giving children any better environment that they previously had. Time to get rid of the political appointments and put some personnell in the dept. that have a clue and give a damn about what they are supposed toB be doing. Small wonder why folks have very little faith in the system. Most of these rednecks are looking for a monthy check and couldn't care less about anyone's welfare except their own. Send the check each month so they can stock up on Busch beer and chicken wings while they watch Nascar....

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6gypsygirl720(186 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

~~~May GOD Bless This Baby Angel, TIFFANY.

Horrible tragedy THAT could have been avoided.
I believe anyone, having anything to do with this, from the biological family to the "foster monster" ,
including The TCCBored [intentional spelling], should BURN.

Fry them all. I do understand how overwhelming it is for The Agency: limited funds, few case workers, stress, etc. Someone must take a stand and protect the children.

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7anothermike(227 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

"limited funds, few case workers, stress,etc." No excuse for putting children in that type of environment. Can't convince me that there isn't enough decent, qualified folks who would gladly take better care of a child than these low-lifes that are now at the front of the line............

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