SPRINGFIELD, Mich. (WOOD) — Police have identified the young girl who died from carbon monoxide poisoning last week and two adults who remain in the hospital.
The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office says Chloe Stevens, 11, Harold “Tom” Ward, 44, and Sandee Confer, 41, all from Battle Creek, were found unresponsive in a building on W. Michigan Avenue in Springfield on Thursday night.
Detectives say the family had lost power to the building and were using a gas-powered generator to power a kerosene heater. That caused an extreme build up of carbon monoxide.
The three were rushed to the hospital, but Chloe died early Friday morning.
Police say Ward remains in critical condition and Confer, Ward’s girlfriend, was upgraded to stable condition.
Detectives say Chloe is Confer’s daughter.
The owner of the building, Brian Mapes, told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday that he rented out the space to Ward last summer, who was running an upholstery shop inside the building.
Mapes said he often stopped by, even as late as last month, but had no idea the family was living inside the building. He says he didn’t see any signs of it, and that the family didn’t have a permit to live there.
Detectives aren’t sure how long the family lived inside the building.
Chloe was a student at Ann J. Kellogg School in Battle Creek. Now, her death is raising questions about her home life.
Children’s Protective Services previously received complaints about the safety of the girl’s housing, Target 8 learned. At least one of the tipsters was concerned about the way the family was heating their home. It’s unclear when or where those complaints were filed. State records show both Ward and Confer had previously lived elsewhere in Michigan.
The state Office of Children’s Ombudsman, a CPS watchdog, will investigate whether CPS could have done more to keep Chloe safe.
According to records in Calhoun County Family Court, Chloe’s brother was removed from Confer’s custody in the summer of 2016 after she refused to care for him. Confer asked the court he be placed into foster care, saying he was a danger to the family. Chloe was allowed to remain in Confer’s care.
Last month, a court order required Confer to “secure adequate, stable housing.” It’s unclear if CPS officials knew the family was living in the upholstery shop.
A Michigan criminal history check of both Ward and Confer revealed mostly misdemeanors. In 2008, Confer was convicted of kidnapping for custodial interference.
It’s unclear if charges will be sought against Ward and Confer, but detectives say there does not appear to be any intentional harm in the case. They continue to call it a tragic accident.
Anyone with information is asked to call Calhoun County Sheriff’s detectives at 269.781.0880 or Silent Observer at 269.781.9700.