Lice infestation linked to girl’s death; parents charged

IVEY, GEORGIA (AP) — A 12-year-old Georgia girl may have died as an indirect result of a severe lice infestation that may have gone on for years, investigators said on Wednesday.

The new details on the August death of Kaitlyn Yozviak were discussed during a preliminary hearing on Monday after which Wilkinson County Superior Court Judge Brenda Trammell agreed there was enough evidence for second-degree murder charges against parents Mary Katherine ‘Katie’ Horton and Joey Yozviak to go forward to a grand jury. The couple was also charged with second-degree child cruelty.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Special Agent Ryan Hilton testified that medical records show Kaitlyn died from cardiac arrest with a secondary cause being severe anaemia, WMAZ-TV reported. The GBI earlier said the girl suffered “excessive physical pain due to medical negligence”, although the autopsy results are not yet complete.

Hilton testified that, at the time of her death, Kaitlyn had “the most severe” lice infestation that the GBI’s office had ever seen, and it may have lasted on and off for at least three years. He believed repeated bites from the lice lowered her blood iron levels, which likely caused the anaemia, and may have triggered the cardiac attack.

Her mother also told investigators Kaitlyn had not bathed within the last week and a half before she died.

When agents got to the home in August, the inside was filthy and in disrepair with vermin covering the mattress, stuffed animals and other furniture in Kaitlyn’s room, Hilton said.

Neighbours told agents they hadn’t seen Kaitlyn playing around the house for the last month and a half to two months before her death.

Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) documents show that Kaitlyn’s two brothers were removed from Horton and Yozviak’s home because of unsanitary conditions.

In 2008, DFCS opened another case around the time Kaitlyn was born, after the parents decided not to give her up for adoption. The agency didn’t receive any reports on the family until 2018.