Mother charged in 3-year-old’s death after fall at CLT Airport, attorney speaks

Updated: Nov. 22, 2019 at 7:03 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A mother has been charged in her 3-year-old son’s death after the boy died from injuries suffered in a fall from an escalator at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in September.

WBTV learned Tuesday that there are active warrants out to charge Jiterria Lightner with three counts of misdemeanor child abuse. If found guilty, she could face jail time.

CMPD said that Lightner turned herself in Thursday at the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office and was served with the warrants for three counts of misdemeanor child abuse. According to the warrant, the charge comes because Lightner allowed “the child to play, unsupervised, on and airport escalator.”

Jiterria Lightner
Jiterria Lightner(Mecklenburg County Jail (custom credit) | Mecklenburg County Jail)

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said officers responded to the incident at the airport around 9 p.m. on Sept. 25. CMPD says the toddler, identified as Jaiden Cowart, had fallen in the stairway near the baggage claim area. Airport Medic immediately arrived on the scene and began to administer first aid.

The child was then taken to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries, police said. Cowart was taken to Atrium Health’s Levine’s Children’s Hospital and was pronounced dead on Sept. 28.

Lightner’s defense attorney, Michael Greene, spoke with WBTV about the situation Tuesday night.

“I think she’s reliving it every minute of her life and I think that this doesn’t help,” Greene said.

Greene says Lightner and her three young children were waiting to be picked up from the airport when the incident happened.

"She was watching her children. In the event where it happened, she was literally 10 to 15 feet away,” explained Greene.

The attorney says two of the children were in between an escalator and a staircase, when they hooked their arms around the moving escalator belt, got carried up the escalator and ended up falling off.

“I think that everyone’s gonna see that this was an accident and with some other provisions that could have happened at the airport, probably could have been prevented,” Greene said.

The attorney says there are other escalators at the airport where a child physically wouldn’t be able to fit in between the escalator and stairs to get themselves in such a predicament.

Charlotte-Douglas International Airport provided WBTV with a statement about the situation Tuesday night.

“We are committed to and constantly reviewing safety and risk. We review any and all recommendations and take appropriate measures. The escalator you are referencing was inspected and was released back in service the following day,” the airport said in the statement.

Greene says anyone who has a child should be able to sympathize with his client..

“No one has a child strapped to their hip for 24 hours a day. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a neglect going on,” Greene said.

He said there is surveillance video showing the little boy on the escalator.

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