By Alan J. Keays / VTDigger
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Vermont State Police say the death earlier this year of an 11-month-old boy from Ludlow has been ruled a homicide, with the cause of death determined to be asphyxiation from strangulation or smothering.
While police are tight-lipped about their ongoing investigation, including if they have any suspect or suspects, a police affidavit filed in support of a search warrant application in the case reveals that an EMT found marks indicating that something had been wrapped around the neck of the infant, Karsen Rickert.
Two people were in the residence in Ludlow with Karsen when medical personnel and police were called there on the morning of Thursday, Jan. 11 for the report of an unresponsive child: the infant’s mother and her boyfriend.
Both deny harming the child, according to an affidavit accompanying the search warrant obtained Wednesday in Windsor County Superior criminal court by VTDigger. Authorities wouldn’t comment if either, both, or neither, were suspects.
Karsen Rickert was the son of Abigail Wood and Nicholas Rickert, who did not reside in the same home as the infant at the time of his death.
Wood at the time was living with her then-boyfriend, Tyler Pollender-Savery, at a residence on Route 100 South in Ludlow along with the baby.
Emergency medical workers were called to that residence on Jan. 11 for a report of an unresponsive infant.
Karsen Rickert was initially taken to Springfield Hospital, and then flown by helicopter to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., where he was later pronounced dead, according to authorities.
Both Wood and Pollender-Savery deny harming the child in statements to police. And both told police they noticed marks on the child’s neck that morning and speculated, at least initially, that the infant’s death may have been some kind of accident.
“When asked what must have happened to Karsen, Tyler said he didn’t know but wondered if Karsen somehow got tangled in the blanket,” Dion wrote in the affidavit.
Wood told police she saw marks on the child’s neck as she waited for medical personnel to arrive on Jan. 11. Those marks, she added, weren’t there prior to that morning.
Police said when they asked Wood if she ever saw Pollender-Savery harm Karsen, “she said no, unless the autopsy report said something different,” the affidavit stated.
The detective also wrote, “I asked Abby what she thought happened to Karsen and she believed it was a freak accident that caused his death.”
Shortly after Karsen’s death, the relationship between Wood and Polllender-Savery broke off, court records stated, and they are no longer together.
Ludlow Police reported that Wood was in the living room, with Karsen unresponsive in Wood’s arms Jan. 11, according to the affidavit.
The EMT who responded to the baby told police she saw “ligature marks” on the infants neck and “what appeared to be a couple of small cuts,” as well as a bruise on one of the baby’s arms.
The EMT said she remembered “Abby saying that they should not have bought the baby a new bed for Christmas and she thought the baby’s injuries were caused by a blanket.”
The next day, Jan. 12, Dr. Jennie Duval, New Hampshire’s medical examiner, performed an autopsy on the infant. Upon completion, she reported that no cause of death could be immediately determined.
On Wednesday, May 2, Dion wrote, he received the final autopsy report from Dr. Duval, the medical examiner in New Hampshire, ruling the manner of death as a homicide, and the cause “asphyxia due to strangulation and/or smothering.”
“Dr. Duval went on to say the trauma was inconsistent with either accidental ligature strangulation or resuscitation efforts,” the affidavit stated.
Two days later, on Monday, May 7, police again interviewed Wood, according to the affidavit.
Just prior to waking up that morning, she said, she saw Pollender-Savery walking over the gate coming out of Karsen’s room, the affidavit stated. She then went to the bathroom and straight into Karsen’s room, where she said she found him “prone on his front side,” according to the affidavit, with the blanket balled up next to his head. She then saw that he wasn’t breathing, and carried him out to the living room where she saw what she described as “strangle marks” on his neck with scratch marks around.
She said she told Pollender-Savery to call 911 and she did “chest compressions” on Karsen prior to police and emergency personnel arriving.
Also, she told police, Pollender-Savery never went into Karsen’s bedroom before going to work in the morning, but he did so that morning.
In addition, she told police, when they were driving home together from the hospital on Jan. 11 she asked him where he was that morning and why he wasn’t in bed when she woke, the affidavit stated.
“She said Tyler got defensive, shrugged it off, and said he was getting ready for work,” according to the affidavit.
Asked what she believed happened to her son, Wood told them while she tried not to believe it, “but everything points to Tyler’s involvement.”
A day later, Tuesday, May 8, police talked to Pollender-Savery, Dion wrote, and he told police he did go into the infant’s room that morning, leaving a bottle of formula for the child.
“He said Karsen was still sleeping as he could see Karsen’s blanket rising up and down on his body,” the detective added. When told that the medical examiner had ruled Karsen died from asphyxiation as a result of an outside force, Pollender-Savery replied, “Really?” the detective wrote. The investigation is continuing, police said, urging anyone with information about the case to contact Dion of the State Police Major Crime Unit at 802-722-4600.