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Mom Charged After Son Falls to His Death From Escalator

Newser — Evann Gastaldo

Jiterria Lightner was traveling alone with her three young children in September when the unthinkable happened: Her son Jaiden Cowart fell from the top of an escalator at North Carolina's Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, dying days later from his injuries.

Now Lightner finds herself charged in his death, WCNC reports. According to her lawyer, the family was near the baggage claim and Lightner was in a chair 10 to 15 feet from her kids, ages 2, 3, and 4, attempting to arrange a ride home.

Two of the kids "hooked their arms around the moving escalator belt," per WECT, and her 3-year-old got "between the stairs and the escalators," which is an unrestricted area, the lawyer says.

"He was carried up on his arm up the escalator. It appears that he was trying to reach over to grab the stair railing and when he tried to grab the railing, that's when he took the unfortunate fall."

He adds that he was "pretty surprised" by the decision to file three misdemeanor child abuse and neglect charges that could put Lightner behind bars for up to 150 days.

"To this day, she still can't recount the story without breaking down," he says. "This wasn't an instance where she was not paying attention to her children." He adds, "I think she's reliving it every minute of her life. ... I think that everyone’s gonna see that this was an accident and with some other provisions that could have happened at the airport, probably could have been prevented." NBC News reports that while police initially labeled the fall an accident, they also said homicide detectives would continue to review the case.

A GoFundMe campaign set up for the family in the wake of Jaiden's death has raised more than $5,000 so far. (Another mom faces charges months after her son's death.)

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