NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - A couple charged with murder by forcing their 5-year-old girl to chug as a punishment what turned out to be a lethal amount of grape soda and water, was arraigned in an east Tennessee court on Friday and did not enter pleas.
The girl’s father, Randall Vaughn, and his wife, Mary - the child’s stepmother - have been charged with her murder through a massive fluid intake that caused her brain to swell and rupture.
They are also facing charges of aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect. They were jailed on bonds of $500,000 each, according to Assistant District Attorney General Alex Pearson.
“She was allegedly force-fed so much liquid that it caused the sodium level in her body to go down, (and) caused her brain to swell,” District Attorney General Berkeley Bell told Knoxville’s WATE television earlier this week.
Bell said the five-year-old was being punished for sneaking off with grape drinks. Authorities said she was forced to drink more than two liters of grape soda and water in less than two hours.
The girl Alexa Linboon died in January 2012, two days after being airlifted to a hospital for treatment.
The trial date was set for October 20, according to the circuit court clerk’s office. The arraignment was held in Rogersville, about 250 miles east of Nashville.
The Vaughns were arrested on Wednesday, two days after a grand jury handed down the sealed indictments at the conclusion of a two-year investigation.
Five other children in their home reportedly have been placed in foster care.
Reporting by Tim Ghianni; Writing by Jon Herskovitz. Editing by Andre Grenon