WHITEHALL, Mich. – A 5-year-old girl fended for herself for days while home alone with the body of her mother, who apparently succumbed to bacterial meningitis, authorities said.
Police forced their way into the rural home 30 miles northwest of Grand Rapids on Sunday and found the cupboards open, rice and cereal spilled all over and the bathroom sink overflowing.
The body of Tina Tietz, 39, was on the couch in the living room. Her daughter Marissa had rummaged the house for food for an unknown number of days. The family dog was tied up inside.
Michelle Schnotala, 39, drove to Tietz's home Sunday to check on her friend after not hearing from her for several days. They last spoke Feb. 3, when Tietz complained of a headache and ear pain, Schnotala said.
The house was locked, Schnotala said. "I heard the dog barking and Marissa crying," she said.
"She just kept saying `Mama's sleeping, Mama's sleeping,"' Schnotala said. Mother and child lived alone.
Marissa was examined at a hospital and is with her maternal grandparents, Muskegon County Undersheriff Dean Roesler said.
A preliminary autopsy found that Tietz likely died of bacterial meningitis, an infection of the fluid that is in the spinal cord and that surrounds the brain, Roesler said.