Mother, relative arrested over death of 3-year-old boy


A Corrections officer takes Lynn Fitial into a vehicle after a bail modification hearing yesterday afternoon before Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo. Fitial was arrested Friday, along with her relative, Stacey Lani Laniyo, over the death of Fitial’s three-year-old son last March 16. (FERDIE DE LA TORRE)

Two women were arrested last Friday over the death last March of a 3-year-old boy who was allegedly found with multiple injuries as a result of beatings.

The boy’s mother, Lynn Fitial, 44, and her relative, Stacey Lani Laniyo, 36, were served with an arrest warrant for the charge of child abuse or neglect issued by Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo.

The boy was pronounced dead last March 16 at 11:04am by Commonwealth Health Center’s Dr. Rodney Klassen as a result of sudden cardiac arrest.

Dr. Phillip Dauterman, who conducted an autopsy last March 24, determined that the cause of death was from obstruction of the airway due to pharyngitis and tracheitis, contributed by peritonitis due to gastroenteritis.

Fitial and Laniyo were taken for their initial hearing before Govendo Monday. Govendo imposed a $25,000 cash bail each on the defendants.

Fitial, through counsel Office of the Public Defender, asked the court yesterday to modify the bail and appoint her mother, Lourdes, as her third party custodian.

Govendo, however, denied Fitial’s application to modify the bail and appoint her mother as her third party custodian.

Govendo said he does have a concern allowing Lourdes as third party custodian considering that she gave police a damaging statement against her daughter, Fitial.

The judge said the proposed third party custodian is a witness and involved in this matter.

Govendo, however, stated that he will entertain another bail modification application for a new proposed third party custodian.

At the hearing, assistant attorney general Erin Toolan, counsel for the government, said Lourdes is not suitable to serve as third party custodian as she is a witness, who did not report the abuse.

Toolan said children coming to Lourdes’ house are also witnesses in the case.

The Office of the Public Defender, counsel for Fitial, said what Lourdes allegedly saw is all assumptions.

Mark Scoggins, the court-appointed counsel for Laniyo, informed Govendo yesterday that he would file an application for bail modification.

Police said Dauterman in a follow-up interview stated that the child’s illness was either caused by a bacterial or a viral infection and was so far advanced at the time he was brought to the CHC’s emergency room last March 16.

Dauterman stated that the child was effectively dead when he was taken to the emergency room and would have presented obvious symptoms such as vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, fever, and sore throat.

The doctor said early medical intervention for the boy’s illness would have been antibiotics, intravenous fluids, and intubation.

Dauterman said the child’s symptoms would be obvious to any reasonable parent or guardian and a cause for concern.

He further stated that the boy’s stomach was empty at the time of death and that it would take approximately 4-6 hours for a child of his age to clear their stomach.

The doctor explained that it means that the boy was either vomiting, not eating, or both.

Dauterman noted that both vomiting and not eating would be “readily apparent to any parent.”

He also noted that the boy had necrosis on parts of his intestines.

The doctor said the boy would have been struggling to breathe as his airway was very constricted.

A police detective and Department of Public Safety crime scene technicians who responded to CHC after being notified about the death last March 16, observed injuries on the boy’s body consistent with physical abuse.

The detective and crime scene technicians noticed there were healed scratch marks above the boy’s right buttocks area that extended downwards to the left leg.

They also observed healed scars on different parts of the child’s face and a healing bruise mark in the center of his back along the spinal area.

There were stitch marks on the upper left forehead area and at the back of the head. The boy’s lower lip appeared split in two although the wound was healed.

According to police detective Taman Rios in her report, on March 16 at 10:05am, a police officer responded to a reported unresponsive boy on Atmayas Street in Koblerville.

Upon the officer’s arrival at the house, a witness informed her that the boy was transported to CHC by an ambulance.

The officer proceeded to CHC, where she met with Fitial, who told her that her child had been ill and was given ibuprofen, which he vomited out, before he was observed to have stiffened.

Rios said that last March 19 she received information from a family member that last March 12, Laniyo, who is the relative of Fitial, had beaten the boy with a broomstick days before he died.

Laniyo lived in the boy’s household at that time.

Rios said during her interview, Fitial’s mother, Lourdes, stated that sometime during the afternoon hours of March 13, she observed the boy was lying still and barely moving in the house.

The grandmother said she observed bruising on the boy’s arms and legs and when she confronted Laniyo what happened, Laniyo smiled and admitted she had spanked the child with a broomstick.

Laniyo allegedly stated that the broomstick broke while she was spanking the boy.

Rios said during an interview, Lourdes’ house helper stated that last March 12 or four days before the boy died, she noticed that the child, who was normally an active boy, was lethargic and lying on the couch.

The house helper said Lourdes called her over to the couch and removed the sheet covering the boy and showed her the bruising on the child’s body.

The house helper said the boy’s body was very warm to the touch.

Rios said additional witness information revealed that on the days that the boy did not behave well, he would be locked in timeouts inside the bedroom of Fitial and Laniyo.

Rios said investigation further revealed that on the days when the boy was left of the room after being locked inside, new bruises were observed on his body by family members/witnesses.

Rios said witness information indicated that on many of these occasions, Fitial was present inside the room.

Rios said a witness revealed that on separate occasions, she had observed incidents where Laniyo elbowed the boy, bit his fingers, and punched him in the mouth, causing his lip to split.

The witness disclosed that she took photos of the boy’s injuries.

The detective said photos extracted from the cell phone show injuries on the boy consistent with the witness’ statements.

The witness also disclosed that the boy had been sick for more than two weeks and had been coughing and vomiting.

The witness said the boy struggled to get up and barely spoke, and complained of pain in his stomach.

Rios said that another witness stated that last February, she observed that the boy’s lower lip and chin were taped and that the lip was split.

The witness said she advised Fitial to take the boy to get medical treatment, but she (Fitial) had only replied that there was no need as the lip was healing.

The witness also revealed that the boy had a different injury each time she visited the home.

The witness recounted that one day she saw the boy had a bruise on the cheek that appeared to be a bite mark and bruising on his finger tips on both hands.

The witness said she asked what happened and the boy told her that Laniyo had bit him.

The witness said the boy demonstrated to her by putting his fingers into his mouth when telling her.

Rios said in an interview, Laniyo described the boy as a child without fear and was very naughty.

Rios said Laniyo stated that she had recently spanked the boy on the back with a tree branch as she was disciplining him because he was naughty.

Rios said in a follow up meeting last June 11, Klassen stated that the boy was effectively dead when admitted to the emergency room as he had no heartbeat and was not breathing.

Klassen said it was out of the ordinary for a child to be admitted to the emergency room in such a state when the cause of death was illness as opposed to drowning, injury, accident, and other things.

The doctor said the boy’s jaw was “locked” by tightened facial muscles and that it did not appear that it was caused by rigor mortis or tetanus.

Klassen indicated that if rigor mortis or tetanus were the cause of the jaw “locked” then other muscles groups would have been affected but were not.

Klassen stated that in an attempt to free the jaw for intubation, the child was given a dose of muscle relaxer but the jaw remained locked.

He said an artificial airway was created on the throat but the boy was not able to be revived.

Klassen added that he had never seen anything like the boy’s tensed jaw and stated that the child’s illness would have been evident to the parents.

The police report did not mention about the boy’s father.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at
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