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Sheriff: "We own this," on failed child death investigation | News

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Sheriff: "We own this," on failed child death investigation
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Clearwater, Florida - She was loved by everyone who knew her - a little girl full of love, goodness and life.

Elizabeth Holder was only 5 years old when she died at her babysitter's home in Dunedin on Saturday, January 19th.  But, what happened before the 19th?

That is now the subject of an internal affairs investigation at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Elizabeth was found wandering the mobile home park where she lived with her parents at 2381 Gulf to Bay Boulevard in Clearwater. The sheriff's office received reports that a small child had been seen wandering around the Mobile Home Park alone.

"Elizabeth had a hard life," said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri during a news conference on Thursday afternoon. 

When deputies got there, they found Elizabeth's mother, 35-year-old Stephanie Judah, to be under the influence of prescription drugs, and the home to be "unkept and unsuitable" for the little girl.

Judah was arrested for child neglect and transported to the Pinellas County Jail.  The child's father, Corey Holder, was not arrested.

When Elizabeth was taken from the home and placed into foster care, the child was supposed to be taken to a physician within 72-hours, which is protocol for this type of investigation. The child did not have visible injuries such as bruising or cuts, but all children must receive medical screening when removed from their homes in cases such as these.

However, that did not happen right away, according to the Pinellas County sheriff.  

A week later, on January 19th, Elizabeth was at the home of her babysitter in Dunedin watching television when she died. 

"She grabbed her head and began screaming it hurts, it hurts.  Then, she went limp," said the Sheriff.

The question remains - if Elizabeth received medical attention within the 72-hour required period, could her death have been prevented?

"That is why we are talking about this. Transparency in my agency is very important. We take full responsibility. I hope this did not contribute to her death," the sheriff told reporters.

The Sheriff also announced that during the course of the Elizabeth's death investigation, he initiated a review of policies and procedures surrounding child removal.

Sheriff Gualtieri said this was due to the fact that the deceased child did not receive a medical screening within the 72-hour period after removal as required by law. 

The doctor's appointment for the child was scheduled for more than ten days later than it should have been.

"This should not have happened. It gives me a knot in my stomach. We own this. We didn't do what we were supposed to do,' said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri

The Sheriff also said that while it is not known, and may never be known if the death of the child could have been prevented with the medical screening, a review of the internal policies is underway in an internal affairs investigation.

He would not comment on whether or not the investigator in charge of this case would lose her job.  The medical examiner has not released the official cause of Elizabeth's death.

Follow 10 News Reporter Melanie Michael on twitter @WTSPMelanie

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