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Mass. Officials Probe Death Of Foster Child, Injuries To Another At Auburn Home

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A 2-year-old girl died and another was in "very critical" condition Sunday after the pair was found unresponsive at a state-licensed foster home in the central Massachusetts town of Auburn.

Worcester County officials said they were conducting an autopsy, and police were still investigating what happened at the Auburn home.

District Attorney Joseph Early said at a news conference Sunday that the foster mother called 911 at 12:23 p.m. Saturday, reporting two children were unresponsive. When emergency officials arrived, they performed CPR on one girl who was unconscious. Lifesaving measures were performed on the two girls, who Early said were both around 2 years old.

They were transported to UMass Memorial Medical Center in nearby Worcester. One girl was pronounced dead a short time later. One girl remained in "very critical" condition Sunday evening. Names are not being released pending notification of the toddlers' biological parents.

A third foster child in the home, a 6-month-old girl, is hospitalized "as a precaution only," the Department of Children and Families said Monday.

The 6-month-old and three biological children of the mother were removed from the Pheasant Court home by DCF, pending results of the investigation, the department said in a statement.

DA Early called the situation "a very difficult case." A police chief said that officials were "very familiar" with the mother, but Early told reporters there was no initial sign of abuse and no one has been taken into custody. He added that the mother has been cooperating with authorities.

An air quality test performed on the home came back negative, Early said, ruling out carbon monoxide poisoning.

DCF's last visit with a child in the home was Wednesday — days before two children were found unresponsive — the department said.

"The Department of Children and Families is devastated by the loss of a child, and the critical condition of another, who were cared for in a foster home," DCF spokeswoman Andrea Grossman said in a statement. "We are working closely with medical personnel and law enforcement to get answers as to the cause of this tragic incident."

The foster home has been licensed with the state since 2014, and six other foster children previously lived in the home since it was licensed.

Officials have not released any names, but David Coxon, 69, told The Boston Globe he learned his granddaughter had died after a DCF official called him Saturday night.

Coxon said his granddaughter was placed in foster care after her mother, Jessica Conway, was sentenced to a year in prison. He said Conway is completing a residential drug rehabilitation program.

Conway, 27, told the Boston Herald she was devastated by her daughter's death and was working hard to regain custody.

Neighbors said they heard the woman who lives in the home screaming outside at about 1 p.m. Saturday and saw the girls being taken away in an ambulance.

Sonia Guzman, who lives across the street, told reporters her daughter rushed over to help the woman, who was holding an uninjured 6-month-old baby in her arms.

"She's a really good mother with the kids," Guzman said. She added that the woman was planning to adopt some of her foster children.

On Sunday afternoon, neighbors placed a bouquet of flowers, candles and two stuffed toys outside the home.

Elizabeth Guyton, a spokeswoman for Gov. Charlie Baker, said Sunday he "is deeply saddened to learn of this tragic situation and is in constant communication with leadership at DCF and public safety about their ongoing investigation."

With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom

This article was originally published on August 16, 2015.

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