River Bates, 3, and his brother Leland, 5, died as the result of elevated body core temperatures as a result of being inside a vehicle in the extreme heat, officials concluded.
“I was there when he came in and he was hot to the touch,” said Dr. Jeff Miller, medical examiner who also works in the Emergency Room at SkyRidge Medical Center.
He was speaking of River Bates, whose core temperature was 109 degrees at the hospital.
Leland Bates was flown via LifeForce to a Chattanooga hospital where he later died.
Both children died from hyperthermia.
Criminal Investigations Division detectives began their search for answers after first responders rushed to an Armstrong Road home around 3 p.m. June 28 where they had reports of two young children unresponsive and possibly drowned.
The residence where Natasha “Tasha” Mache Moses Bates, 26, had taken the children was reportedly the home of her father. Investigators began looking into the case at Bates’ Keith Valley Road residence, where the children had reportedly been outside playing, according to initial reports from the BCSO.
According to Miller, even after Leland’s body was cooled through intravenous fluids and ice packs, his core temperature was still 103 degrees after the flight on which pre-hospital treatment took place.
Bates was charged with two counts of first-degree murder after an investigation was launched by the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.
She was later charged with two counts of aggravated child abuse/endangerment, four counts of initiation of manufacture of methamphetamine and one count of promotion of meth manufacture, according to reports.
The alleged drug charges are the result of detectives returning to the home on a search warrant.
Investigators went to a Keith Valley Road address on July 13 under after receiving information about possible drug activity, according to Bob Gault, media relations coordinator for the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.
“Through investigation and statements, investigators found reason to believe the boys died in a car and an autopsy ruled the cause of death to be from hyperthermia,” Gault said following Bates’ indictment by a Bradley County grand jury.
According to the autopsy report, the “final anatomic diagnosis was hyperthermia,” which resulted in “a markedly elevated core temperature (clinical) with coma and death.”
“Kids in general have areas which make them much more susceptible to heat injury. Kids produce more heat per body/calorie count than adults do. If they are active, they are producing more heat. Their cardiovascular system has a lower output rate and a lower heart rate and they don’t push as much blood. That decreases their ability to push more blood out of the core to the periphery. They are more susceptible to gain heat from the environment than we are (adults),” explained Miller.
Miller also said children have “a reduced capacity for sweating.”
He also said they don’t have the cognitive ability to understand heat and its dangers.
“To them, it’s hot ... ‘need more Kool-Aid,’ then they are right back outside playing again,” Miller said.
Miller said the ambient temperature that day was 103 degrees.
The heat affected the each child’s hypothalamus which regulates the body’s heating and cooling.
The cycle of heat-related illness is complex, according to Miller.
Ultimately, the cycle evolves with the brain and body shutting down and possibly causing death.
According to the results of the autopsy which was performed at UT Medical Center, both boys appeared to be well-hydrated and nourished.
“What stands out the most is they were normal, healthy children. There was nothing wrong with them except they came in and died shortly after,” Miller said.
The autopsy report also indicated drugs and narcotics in their system which were consistent with medical personnel attempting to save their lives.
Miller and Eric Blach, Bradley County Medical Examiner’s Office administrator, said no indication was listed in the report of illegal drugs or narcotics being present.
Natasha “Tasha” Mache Moses Bates is scheduled to make a court appearance on the narcotics charges Nov. 9, and on the murder charges on Nov. 19, according to court officials.