Criminal Justice

Connecticut Mom Jailed, Charged With Manslaughter After 2-Year-Old Dies From Window Fall

"You don't have to punish me because I am already punishing myself," says Tabitha Frank.


Tabitha Frank, a Hartford, Connecticut, mom whose 2-year-old son died from falling out a window while she was on her Uber shift, has been charged with manslaughter. The boy was home with his four older sisters. Frank had called the toddler's father to come watch the kids, but he arrived too late. The oldest child in the house was 12, an age at which many kids babysit their younger siblings.

Corneliuz Alfonso Shand Williams—called "PaPa" by his family because of his "old soul" —died two days after his July 22 fall, according to the Hartford Courant.

Frank was arrested the night of the fall and taken to jail. Her family bailed her out the next day. She appeared in court on Thursday, flanked by relatives and supporters. They filled two rows of seats.

"My baby died. My baby died, and they're looking for someone to blame," a grief-stricken Frank tells Reason. The authorities "want to hang me for something I'm already suffering from."

Frank was originally charged with 10 counts of risk of injury to a minor. Each carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. She was released on a $100,000 bond. When the child subsequently died and the manslaughter charges were added, the prosecutors asked for a bond increase, which could put Frank back in jail. This request will be heard on August 10.

"They've charged her with manslaughter in the first degree which requires 'supreme indifference to human life,'" says Wesley Spears, an attorney for Frank. "That statute is designed for people like a drunk who goes down the highway on the wrong side of the road at a high rate of speed—that kind of thing."

Spears took the case pro bono because he has known Frank's father for many years.

Frank was working for Uber because of the flexibility it provided, says Spears. During surge pricing, she could make twice as much money, so she looked for those opportunities. The drivers call it purple time.

When her app went purple on July 22, she called her son's dad to come watch the kids. He said he would be right over, according to Spears, but subsequently fell asleep. He arrived after the boy had fallen, just as the police were getting there.

Frank and her children live in public housing. (The four daughters have since been placed with relatives.) Police described their third-floor apartment as "deplorable" and said they could smell rotting food from the stairwell. But a Department of Children and Families (DCF) worker who investigated the home a month earlier had not found it in particularly bad shape, according to the Courant.

"The children were deemed safe and the home was observed to be adequate," confirmed Ken Mysogland, a spokesperson for DCF.

But the Office of the Child Advocate, which oversees DCF, has called the death "preventable and tragic."

Tragic? Indisputably. But preventable? Well, that requires hindsight. The impulse after an accident is always to blame someone.

"Usually it's the mother," says Diane Redleaf, a longtime civil rights lawyer and legal consultant to Let Grow, the nonprofit I founded. "We seem to have no tolerance for tragic accidents that don't have a wrongdoer."

The night before the boy fell, he had been eating ice cream outside with his sisters and playing in a kiddie pool they set up. Relatives told the Courant that Frank tried to make this summer as sweet as possible for her kids, especially after the all the confinement during COVID-19.

The funeral is planned for next week. Frank's sister has set up a GoFundMe to cover expenses. It has raised over $600 so far.

On the phone, Frank says she could understand being prosecuted if she had been an abusive or unloving mother.

"But I kissed the top of his head, and the bottom of his feet," she says. "You don't have to punish me because I am already punishing myself."