A 12-year-old Georgia girl may have died as an indirect result of a severe lice infection that went untreated by her parents for years, investigators revealed Monday during a preliminary hearing.
The new details surrounding the tragic August death of Kaitlyn Yozivak were brought up at a hearing held early this week after which a Wilkinson County judge ruled there was enough evidence to go forward with second-degree murder charges against the girl's parents, Mary Katherine Horton and Joey Yozviak. The couple has also been charged with second-degree child cruelty.
Medical records show Kaitlyn died from cardiac arrest with a secondary cause being severe anemia.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said the little girl suffered "excessive physical pain due to medical negligence," though the autopsy results have not been completed.
GBI Special Agent Ryan Hilton testified that at the time of Kaitlyn's death, she had "the most severe" lice infestation the GBI's office had ever seen and that it likely lasted for at least three years. Hilton said he believed repeated lice bites lowered Kaitlyn's blood iron levels, which likely caused the anemia and triggered her cardiac attack.
Kaitlyn's mother purportedly told investigators that her daughter had not bathed within the last week and a half before she died.
Kaitlyn's older brothers had been removed from the home in the past due to unsanitary conditions, WMAZ reported. The news outlet said the boys are currently in the custody of their maternal grandmother, Anna Horton.
Anna Horton has faulted the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services for not doing their job and allowing the abuse to continue.
"Had the system done their job and rescued Kaitlyn, I would [have] raised her," she said.
When agents got to Kaitlyn's home in August, they found the inside caked in filth and in disrepair with vermin covering the mattress, stuffed animals and other furniture.
Neighbors told investigators they hadn't seen Kaitlyn playing around the house for the past two and a half months before her death.
Child services had been called in 2018 to investigate the property after it was reported that the home was "bug-infested, (with) excessive cats, and hazardous conditions," WMAZ reported. At the time, Kaitlyn was taken to her aunt's house but returned to her parents six days later.
The next time the agency heard from the family was after Kaitlyn died.
The state's Division of Family and Children Services started a file on Kaitlyn soon after she was born in 2008. Her mother was supposed to give her up for adoption to Michele and Dwyatt Creamer but decided at the last minute to keep her.
"I never dreamed it would end like this. Never," Michele Creamer told WMAZ.
The Creamers said they first met Katie Horton and Yozviak in March 2008 when they first discussed adopting baby Kaitlyn.
"We had absolutely everything ready. Car seat, baby bed, furniture, everything [in the nursery] was pink and brown. I had an outfit to bring her home in. A diaper bag, absolutely everything," Creamer said.
The Creamers said Horton and Yozviak told them they wouldn't be able to take care of the baby themselves.
"They didn't have a home of their own. He worked a part-time job at that point. She didn't work at all. They felt like they couldn't provide for her," Creamer said.
The Creamers were in the hospital the day Kaitlyn was born.
"I named her. I was in the delivery room. We held her. I have probably 100 pictures of her first few hours," Creamer said. "She had beautiful dark eyes, beautiful dark eyes. She was absolutely gorgeous, so alert."
But the next day, when the Creamers were supposed to take Kailtyn home, their dream of adopting the infant turned into a nightmare.
"When I went to the hospital, we were supposed to go home that day. I had the car seat. I had the diaper bag. I had her outfit to go home in. I had everything there. When I walked into her room, she was crying," Creamer said, adding that Horton told her she felt obligated to keep Kaitlyn.
"She looked to me that day and said, 'This baby is supposed to be yours. This baby's supposed to be yours. I don't want this baby, but I feel like I have to,'" Creamer said.