[UPDATE] Mother Charged in River Drowning of 6-month Old

By: Eyewitness News Email
By: Eyewitness News Email

[UPDATE] Hamilton County, Florida - 9-08-2011 5:00 pm

25-Year-Old Melissa Westberry and her attorney stood before Judge Vernon Douglas and asked to have her pre-trial hearing continued.

In July, a Grand Jury charged her with aggravated manslaughter in her son's drowning.

Back in May, Hamilton County Deputies say six-month-old Jace drowned at the Alapaha River when he climbed out of his car seat and rolled in. The water was only five inches deep.

Westberry pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Jace's father and his family were in court, but out of respect, we didn't show them during their grieving process.

A trial date has not been set. Attorneys from both sides are still building their cases.
[UPDATE] Hamilton County, Florida - 8-23 5:52 pm

Memories are all that remain for Jace Shaw's great aunt Sarah Eadie. Eadie is the little boy's father's aunt.

"Jace was a very happy chubby little boy. He smiled all the time. He was one of the babies that never cried," said Eadie.

She remembers the playful baby who she tried to visit every other weekend. Eadie says knowing she won't see that smile again hurts.

"To us it was such a tragedy because it could've been avoided," said Eadie.

On May 21st, Hamilton County Sheriff's Office says the baby drowned here at the Alapaha river.

He was sitting unrestrained in a car seat near the river when, deputies say he got out and drowned.

Reports show the mother, Melissa Westberry had a .09 blood alcohol level at the time of the drowning.

"It would be like someone run over you in a parking lot," said Eadie. "It's the same. She was intoxicated."

Two months later a grand jury charged her with Aggravated Manslaughter.

"We have heard that perhaps there is a plea deal on the table but we would like to see Ms. Westberry prosecuted to the fullest extent," said Eadie.

WCTV reached out tot he state attorney's office, they say they can't confirm or deny whether there is a plea deal on the table.

Westberry is set to be arraigned September 8th.

[UPDATE] Hamilton County, Florida - 8-23 9:31 am

Hamilton County Sheriff's office says the charges will be formally brought before 25-year-old Melissa Westberry on September 8th.

Jace Shaw drowned in five to six inches of water.

Authorities say there was a time lapse between the time the baby drowned and when they were called.

Deputies say they found a pack of beer at the scene.

The State Attorney's office says there is no timetable on when the trial will start.

But they don't expect it to begin before next year.

[UPDATE] Hamilton County, Florida - 7-14 - 2:25pm -

Based on evidence found, the Grand Jury has charged 24-year-old Melissa Westberry with Aggravated Manslaughter charges. The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office says she turned herself in at 8am.

The jury deliberated for an hour.


[UPDATE] Hamilton County, Florida - 7-13 - Noon -

A grand jury is hearing evidence in the drowning investigation of a Hamilton County six month old.

Today, we found out some of the things the Jury will be considering during this hearing. Deputies tell Eyewitness News that there was a pack of beer found at the scene, the baby drowned in five to six inches of water and there was a time lapse between when the baby drowned and when authorities were called.

(We first covered the incident in May.)

Hamilton County Sheriff's Office says just before five that day, Deputies received a call about an infant drowning in the Alapaha river.

Deputies say the child's mother, 24-year-old Melissa Westberry, had alcohol in her system at the time. All that evidence will be brought before the jury.

"What it does is put it in the hands of the people. In other words, we don't decide the charge we present it to the pool of grand jurors who hear the evidence and they make a decision," say Hamilton County Sheriff Harrell Reid.

We do know one investigator will be testifying. Sheriff Reid tells me he the State Attorney has received the mother's toxicology results and it will be presented at today's hearing.

Deputies tell me the toddler's mother was not in the courtroom today. They jury will have to decide based on the evidence if they will proceed with charges, but the court has 15 days before it can release the ruling.


[UPDATE] 7-01 3:50 pm

Hamilton County Sheriff Harrell Reid says he will know by next week when the evidence will be presented to the grand jury.

Deputies say on May 21st just before 5 pm, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office received a call about an infant drowning in the Alapaha river.

Authorities say they are still awaiting the toxicology results of the 24-year-old mother, Melissa Westberry.

The grand Jury will decide if the mother will face charges.


[UPDATE] 5-25 6:41 pm

Alisa Simpson says her heart broke when she heard an infant drowned at the Alapaha River.

But says she's disturbed after hearing the mother was drinking at the time of the incident.

"It's sad that it happened but it did and probably a major wake-up call you know for the parents," said Simpson.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office says Saturday just before 5 p.m. 6-month-old Jace Shaw drowned.

He was sitting unstrapped in a car seat when he got out and made his way to the river.

Deputies say they tried resuscitating the infant but he didn't make it.

Authorities say his mother, 24-year-old Melissa Westberry was at the river with friends.

They say alcohol was in her system and are awaiting test to see how much.

"We don't know if that was a contributing cause or not but certainly we're taking every precaution and want to find out exactly what happened," said Sheriff Harrell Reid.

Sheriff Reid says they do believe it was an accident but adds the State Attorney says pending results of the alcohol test they might have to bring the evidence before a grand jury.

[UPDATE] 5-25 2:45pm -

The baby's mother had alcohol in her system, but it is unknown if it was a contributing factor or how much alcohol she had consumed, says Hamilton County Sheriff Harrell Reid. It is known that the baby was in a car seat near the river and somehow got out.

Stay will WCTV as more details develop.


A 6-month old drowned over the weekend, according to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. The drowning took place on 4:47pm on May 21st near the Alapaha river near Jennings, Florida. The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is handling case. HCSO would not release the mother’s name, but said that she is 24-years-old.

WCTV has a reporter at the scene. Stay with WCTV for updates.

You must be logged in to post comments.

Password (case sensitive):
Remember Me:

Read Comments

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Anonymous on Sep 19, 2011 at 08:52 AM
    My daughter crawled at 4 months. I have it on video, it is possible, and she walked at 8 1/2 months. But that doesn't mean I am defending the actions of this mother in no way. But I do agree there are others that were present who should be held accountable as well.
  • by STATE WORKER Location: SOUTHWOOD on Sep 9, 2011 at 09:16 AM
    Where are all the post about having children out of wedlock, welfare recipient comments? Is it because this is poor white trash no politically correct comments have been made? Yah, I thought so, she is no better than any other race that is receiving government assistance and not being responsible for her off springs.
    • reply
      by LydYa on Sep 9, 2011 at 11:26 AM in reply to STATE WORKER
      Until you mentioned it, I had no clue what the race of any of the parties involved was. Seems to me you are trying to perpetuate the racism that you are accusing other of.
      • reply
        by SPEAKTRUTH on Sep 9, 2011 at 01:07 PM in reply to LydYa
        LYdYa, you know what state worker is saying is the TRUTH!
        • reply
          by LydYa on Sep 9, 2011 at 01:50 PM in reply to SPEAKTRUTH
          What I know from both of State Worker's comment and your reply to my comment is that you are both racist and trying to perpetuate that sentiment. Why can't it ever be that the person who hurt someone is just a mean person and would have done it even if we were all the same shade of purple? Why can't it be that there are parents that just shouldn't be parents? Why does it always have to be about race? I think that everyone should be treated equally until you prove that you shouldn't be treated equally. I know everyone doesn't think like that and that's fine, everyone is entitled to their opinion. However; I do think there are a lot of people out there who are tired of everything being blamed on race. Some times people are just mean, lazy, stupid, etc. simply because that's the way they are not because they are one particular race, religon, ethnicity, etc.
    • reply
      by Hello it's your government asking the questions! Did you use my computer to post this blog? on Sep 9, 2011 at 05:51 PM in reply to STATE WORKER
      If you did, you are just a 'nanny nanny boo boo!' Did you get your 'holiday comp'? Just asking?
      • reply
        by nanny on Sep 24, 2011 at 04:08 PM in reply to Hello it's your government asking the questions! Did you use my computer to post this blog?
        i[ am a granny, nanny what ever you want to call me and people are are people, no matter what race they are, and why you call her trash, is it because she was drinking or you know what really is trash, you are a sick person that needs help!!!!!
    • reply
      by GRANNIE on Sep 24, 2011 at 04:04 PM in reply to STATE WORKER
      why are you calling her white trash?? i guess one would know another, , how do you know she is white, she could be green , what does it matter what race she is , a baby died and it could hace been accidently
  • by Steve Location: Not in Marietta on Sep 8, 2011 at 07:04 PM
    I had decided not to make a comment on this article, but: AMENDMENT VI, unlike that fiasco in Orange County, did read "...the accused should enjoy the right to speedy and public trial..." Well you leftists and nay sayers out there need to remember that animal hid the death of her daughter in Orlando, and was charged in 2008 CE. I truly believe justice should be swift. Don't wait three years to bring this to trial. Thanx.
  • by Baby Killers on Aug 23, 2011 at 04:30 PM
    Lets see, Casey got off, this one would, Drew Peterson would probably get off for deaths of all his wives. Guess outta our guilt, we should let Susan Smith and Scott peterson off.
  • by Janny Location: Tallahassee on Aug 23, 2011 at 12:34 PM
    Casey got away with it !! Why not this idiot? What is wrong with parents these days? If you don't want children, don't get pregnant, if you're too stupid to keep from getting pregnant, you probably shouldn't be allowed to drive either.
    • reply
      by nanny on Sep 24, 2011 at 04:12 PM in reply to Janny
      are you sure you can throw stones at someone else!!!!!!!
  • by Jethro Location: T. Town, Florida on Aug 23, 2011 at 12:23 PM
    It's about-time! I have been following this very closely. This party animal needs an attitude adjustment! I am deeply disturbed by the loss of this infant. The mother is simply a loser hoodrat! I have two words for you: CASEY ANTHONY! What a pile? I have another: drowning? These mom's killing their kids is just so-sick! I wish that they would just go to the firehouse, and give sanctuary to these children and they would be off-the-hook, forever! The children could grow-up in homes where they are loved, and protected. Losers! Thanx.
  • by it is what it is on Aug 23, 2011 at 11:55 AM
    I suspect that this was a tragic accident, no intent to harm that child at all. Just not paying attention... sad.
    • reply
      by Morgan on Sep 8, 2011 at 05:31 PM in reply to it is what it is
      I suspect the same, I don't think she drowned him, just being irresponsible and not paying attention. It is very sad and could have been avoided.
    • reply
      by Ima on Sep 9, 2011 at 05:10 AM in reply to it is what it is
      "Not Paying Attention" = "Criminal Negligence".
    • reply
      by GRANNIE on Sep 24, 2011 at 04:14 PM in reply to it is what it is
  • by Anonymous on Aug 23, 2011 at 10:07 AM
  • by HMA on Aug 23, 2011 at 09:43 AM
    That's it. No more beer for my wife. If she even thinks about ordering a margarita at the mexican resturant tonight, I'm calling the FBI.
  • by Vic Location: Tally on Aug 23, 2011 at 09:21 AM
    Very sad... feed the so called mother to the sharks...at least tie her tubes so she never has the opportunity to have any more children.
WCTV 1801 Halstead Blvd. Tallahassee, FL 32309
Copyright © 2002-2016 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 122600224 - wctv.tv/a?a=122600224
Gray Television, Inc.