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Toxic levels of salt caused infant's death

May 10, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

Toxicology results in the death of 2-year-old Kateland Marie Titsworth show she had 34 grams of salt in her stomach, a toxic level that is fueling allegations the toddler was force-fed table salt as punishment, according to county Coroner's Office officials.

The results of the toxicology test, considered a key element of the probe into Kateland's April 9 death, were released Wednesday by coroner's investigators.

The investigation is focusing on Kateland's parents, both of whom have been charged with murder.

Deputy District Attorney Deborah Owen has alleged Kateland's mother, Hillary John Titsworth, 22, force-fed her daughter table salt as punishment.

Owen has alleged Kateland's father, John Anthony Titsworth, 23, aided and abetted his wife by not attempting to stop her.

Investigators have said a toxic level of sodium found in Kateland's system caused her death.

"There was an elevated sodium level in her blood and an elevated chloride level," Hayes said.

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He added there was a large liquefied mass in Kateland's stomach that registered as sodium. The amount of sodium in her stomach totaled about 34 grams. Hayes said that is equivalent to swallowing 34 single-serving 1-gram packets of sugar substitute.

"There is no conceivable natural way a person could have that much sodium in their system," Hayes said.

Hayes added the toxicology results are consistent with the investigation by the county Sheriff's Office and the Westmorland Police Department. The Titsworths live in Westmorland.

Authorities interviewed Hillary Titsworth and the couple's 5-year-old son. While Owen has declined to say what information Hillary Titsworth provided, she did say the 5-year-old boy told police his mother had force-fed Kateland salt.

Attorney Chris Yturralde of El Centro, John Titsworth's court-appointed attorney, said Wednesday he cannot comment on the case until he reviews reports tied to the investigation.

Attorney Poli Flores of El Centro, Hillary Titsworth's court-appointed attorney, declined to comment this morning, stating he first needs to read the toxicology results.

Kateland was pronounced dead in Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley on April 9.

Her parents were arrested two days later following an investigation by the Sheriff's Office and Westmorland police. Both parents have remained in jail with bail for each set at $1 million.

Along with being charged with murder, the DA's office has charged both parents with assault on a child resulting in death.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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