On Nov. 6, when she was born, Trinity Jabore tested positive for the main chemical in marijuana, having absorbed it in her mother’s womb. And at 4 pounds, 14.5 ounces, she entered the world woefully underweight.
Seven weeks later, after an ambulance crew on Christmas Day wheeled her lifeless body out of what D.C. police described as a “cluttered and dirty” apartment, a pathologist determined that Trinity’s brief existence had been one of misery.
Her weight in the D.C. morgue was 10.5 ounces less than it had been nearly two months earlier in a delivery room at United Medical Center in Southeast Washington.
In addition, the infant “had multiple rib fractures that were received through a minimum of three traumatic events,” according to charging documents filed in D.C. Superior Court. The postmortem exam by a D.C. medical examiner found that Trinity had suffered the injuries on separate occasions before she died from malnutrition and from the effects of consuming large amounts of water that had been mixed with concentrated milk.
Trinity’s broken bones were “consistent with constriction of the chest or blunt force trauma,” D.C. police detective Ryan Devlin wrote in an affidavit this month. The sworn statement was used to obtain arrest warrants for Trinity’s parents, who have been jailed since May 5 on first-degree murder charges.
In a city that has grown prosperous in the 21st century, its neighborhoods swelling with affluent newcomers in pricey houses and ever-more luxurious high-rises, the circumstances of Trinity’s short life and squalid death are a counterpoint to gentrification — a reminder of the entrenched poverty and family dysfunction obscured in recent years by the celebratedrenaissance of the nation’s capital.
The parents, Trishelle Jabore, 26, and Jay Crowder, 33, shared a rent-subsidized two-bedroom apartment on Galveston Place SW. The 12-page affidavit, along with social-worker records obtained by The Washington Post, describe a financially destitute mother and father, each with a history of serious psychiatric problems, who were ill equipped to care for a newborn. The couple is scheduled to appear in court May 22.
Before the baby’s death, the District’s Child and Family Services Agency had received multiple calls about Jabore and Crowder over the reported neglect of other youngsters in their family, according to records reviewed by The Post. But the agency was unaware of any problems involving Trinity, spokeswoman Mindy Good said in an interview.
“We had no case open relative to this child,” she said, adding, “This situation is a horrible, horrible tragedy.”
Late in 2016, with Trinity and their two other children, a 5-year-old and a toddler, the couple was getting by on $217 in monthly welfare payments, called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, plus $771 a month from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP. Funds are disbursed electronically by the programs at the start of each month and recipients make purchases using plastic cards.
Shortly past noon on Christmas, as police inspected the trash-strewn apartment after Trinity’s body had been removed, “there were cigarette ashes on the windowsill and a suspected marijuana or synthetic marijuana cigarette and three empty baggies consistent with drug paraphernalia in the living room,” Devlin wrote in the arrest warrant filed with the court.
“The refrigerator had a carton of eggs, shredded cheese. . . . The kitchen cupboards had canned vegetables and other food items,” but there was no baby formula in the home, his affadavit said.
According to the affidavit, Jabore told police that when she was discharged from United Medical Center with Trinity on Nov. 8, the hospital gave her 16 ready-made bottles of Similac formula. But in December, when they were out of formula, short of money and awaiting January’s SNAP and TANF payments, she and Crowder told police, they fed Trinity a steady diet of condensed and powdered milk mixed with water.
As a result, a medical examiner determined, the baby suffered “hyponatremia,” a critical dilution of sodium in her body caused by water intoxication.
“Jabore reported that she noticed T.J. was looking sick four days prior to T.J.’s death,” Devlin wrote, referring to Trinity by her initials throughout his affidavit. “Jabore reported that she told Crowder that they needed to take T.J. to the hospital. Jabore reported that Crowder got angry and said she’s fine and no one is going anywhere.”
In the past, Devlin wrote, Jabore also had received assistance for one of her older children through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC. But the benefit had been cut off, she told police, because she failed to take the youngster for required medical checkups.
As for Trinity, she “had not seen a doctor” since her birth, and “therefore Jabore never attempted to obtain WIC benefits to provide formula for T.J.,” the affidavit says.
Jabore and Crowder are both high school graduates. The two appear to have limited cognitive abilities, according to the social-worker reports, and both have periodically suffered from serious mental-health problems. They were unemployed and had dated for about five years when Trinity was born, the records state. Crowder often referred to Jabore as his “fiancee” or “wife” when he spoke of her to social workers.
In 2010, Crowder was sentenced to 18 months in jail for a sex offense involving a 15-year-old girl. He also has prior minor drug charges. Crowder’s public defender did not return a phone message seeking comment.
The affidavit says that in an interview with police, Jabore described Crowder as physically and emotionally abusive toward her. And she blamed him for the baby’s death, saying Crowder controlled the family’s TANF and SNAP accounts and was responsible for feeding Trinity, because Jabore was bedridden with a back ailment caused by the strain of giving birth.
The affidavit does not state who allegedly broke the infant’s ribs and collarbone.
“No one is more heartbroken about what happened than this mother,” said Jabore’s attorney, Jonathan Zucker, who faulted the Child and Family Services Agency for not closely monitoring the couple in light of the earlier problems with their other children. Instead, their household “just fell off the radar,” Zucker said.
“Yes, this is a tragedy, but every tragedy isn’t a crime,” he said.
Good, the Child and Family Services spokeswoman, declined to discuss details of the agency’s involvement with the family, citing privacy laws.
A social worker said in a report that Jabore seemed incapable of following through on even simple tasks, such as filling out paperwork related to Trinity’s burial.
“This worker feels that her unaddressed barriers to parenting far exceed her ability to care for her two young children,” the report says, referring to the older siblings, who were placed in foster care following their parents’ arrest. “Additionally, her inability to communicate when something is wrong resulted in her daughter, Trinity, starving to death.”
Under police questioning, Crowder “stated that he tried to be a good parent and that parenthood does not come with instructions,” the affidavit says.
David Thompson, a spokesman for United Medical Center, said that although Trinity weighed less than 5 pounds when she was discharged, her weight was “not a factor” and her overall health was “good.” Thompson said Jabore was given instructions on how to care for the infant before she and the child were discharged.
As for the presence of the marijuana chemical tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in Trinity’s blood, Thompson said that she underwent a “comprehensive” physical examination and was found to be healthy enough to go home with her mother. “Everything was determined to be good,” he said, “other than the marijuana.”
Although hospitals are required by law to notify Child and Family Services when babies are born “tox-positive,” officials typically do not remove such infants from their mothers’ care unless additional aggravating circumstances warrant such action, said Good, the agency spokeswoman.
She declined to talk about Trinity except to say that no case was opened.
According to the social-worker records, Child and Family Services received four calls to its hotline in recent years about alleged neglect and endangerment involving Jabore and Crowder and their two other children.
On May 31, 2014, the couple’s then 3-year-old son, suffering from a severe diaper rash, was taken to an emergency room by one of his grandmothers.
“This is the worst case of diaper rash I have ever seen,” a physician told a social worker, according to a written report. “I determined that this was caused by the child sitting in his own urine and feces for long periods of time. The child can barely sit down on his own buttocks.” How the matter was handled by the agency is unclear.
On Oct. 6, 2015, when Jabore’s first daughter was born, someone called the agency to report that Jabore was neglectful and that she and her infant had tested positive for THC. The outcome of that case could not be determined.
Then, in early December, about three weeks before Trinity’s death, social workers tried to meet with Jabore and Crowder after a teacher reported that the couple’s son had shown up at school with a bruise under his left eye. According to the report, the boy told teachers that his mother had punched him because “he wasn’t listening.”
An agency employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity last week because of privacy rules, said that a social worker spoke with the boy at the school “and found that the situation was not exactly as it had been reported. He had not been beaten or badly hurt, and there was not a huge red flag that we saw.”
Still, “we made numerous attempts to meet with the parents” in December, the worker said. “We were not successful in contacting them at the home.”
She said, “We were in the process of continuing that investigation, trying to make contact with the parents, when the other child, the infant, unfortunately died.”