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Mother was on the phone for 20 minutes as baby died in bathtub, police say

Olivia Miller, 23, who was arrested after her eight-month-old son drowned in the bathtub at their home in Michigan (Kent County Sheriff’s Office)
Olivia Miller, 23, who was arrested after her eight-month-old son drowned in the bathtub at their home in Michigan (Kent County Sheriff’s Office)

A Michigan mother was arrested on Thursday after investigators said she was on her phone for more than 20 minutes while her eight-month-old child drowned in a bathtub.

Olivia Miller, 23, of Sparta Township, Michigan, is facing one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of second-degree child abuse after her son, Asher Johnson, drowned in a bathtub at their home in November 2023.

Emergency services found the child lying face-up on the living room floor at an eastern Michigan home after responding to a call regarding a baby who had drowned in a bathtub, the sheriff’s office said.

Paramedics performed CPR on the child before transporting him to hospital where he was pronounced dead, court records state.

The baby’s cause of death was determined to be drowning, according to an autopsy conducted by Kent County’s chief medical examiner Stephen Cohle, who also estimated that the infant had been lying on his back on the floor for a minimum of 20 minutes before authorities arrived.

Investigators determined that Miller was home alone with her baby when he drowned.

They added that Miller gave “varying stories” when asked what happened, according to an affidavit obtained by Michigan news website MLive.

The mother allegedly told investigators that she left her baby sitting up in the bathtub for five minutes while she went to the adjacent laundry room, according to the affidavit.

She claimed the tub was filled a few inches at the time and the water was running.

When she returned, Miller said she found her son floating, with his face underwater, the affidavit added.

She allegedly told investigators she tried to revive her baby until first responders arrived, the court document states.

However, when detectives analysed Miller’s phone, they found her story did not add up.

Court documents state her cellphone activity from the time of the incident shows she used her phone for approximately 21 minutes from 3.17pm until she called 911 at 3.38pm. During that timeframe, there was only an 18-second break in her phone usage, the documents allege.

The affidavit also alleges her cellphone activity shows she called her son’s paternal grandmother twice to tell her the boy had drowned, two minutes before she called 911.

She also texted her father that she was “just trying to talk while I have time while Asher’s taking a nap”, four minutes before she called 911, according to the affidavit.

Miller’s attorney told WZZM that there was “no indication of intentionality” regarding her alleged actions.

“There’s no indication of intentionality here and that’s important to point out, they said. “This is a tragic situation she suffered tremendously, emotionally from the death of her child. She loves that child. I’ve been inside that house. There are photographs all over that house of her, the father with that child.”

Miller is currently being held on a $300,000 bond at the Kent County jail, online records show.

She has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and is due back in court on 7 February.