MARIETTA, Ga. – Four-month-old Kingston “Zion” Troup was wearing two onesies and a soiled diaper the morning he was found dead on his mother’s bed.
After first responders found his face and head against two pillows, Cobb County medical examiner concluded that the cause of his Dec. 1, 2017 death was asphyxiation, “due to unsafe sleep conditions” and the manner of death was determined to be an “accident,” after his mother ignored the court and was alone with her son.
With an already-extensive rap sheet in Cobb County for violence, drug possession and DUI offenses—including drugs she ingested while in labor with him, Zion’s mother, Lalonie Troup, 31, was arrested and charged in his death.
But questions linger for Zion’s father, 38-year-old David Rillie, of Tucker, Ga.
“Just the way it was handled, it just wasn't right, and never will be, and there's nothing we can do to bring him back.”
He wants to know why Zion was alone with Lalonie in their Marietta, Ga., home, when a judge ruled that “at no time will the child be left alone with the mother until further order of this court…” despite a Georgia’s Department of Family and Children's Services (DFCS) recommendation to keep Zion in the state’s custody?
“I feel like he was failed. I mean, obviously, poor judgment on every side, and it hurts,” the grieving father said. “There's no telling who or what he could have been in life, but in four months, it was over with.”
The moment he looked into Zion's big brown eyes the day he was born on July 21, 2017, there was no question in Rillie’s mind, that he was his son.
“I saw him and he looked just like me. It was like no doubt. I didn't even really have to take a paternity test at that point, but just to be safe, I did.”
“I mean, I just knew. He was mine. I was happy.”
But, Rillie said, he had no idea what happened to his son in the four months that he was alive—especially what was going on with Zion’s mom and her ongoing drug addiction.
He said he did not know about her addiction or her numerous arrests until he saw it blasted on the news following his son’s death.
“I didn't hear anything until the story was on the news... the drugs and the police and DFCS, and like, he's already in the ground and I'm finding this out on a Friday night on the news. It was my first knowledge of any of it.”
According to him, he and Lalonie, who was most recently a server at Hooter’s restaurant in Kennesaw, dated nearly a decade earlier in 2007, but she didn’t have a drug problem then. They ran into each other last year and reconnected momentarily, he said.
With all of her criminal issues, Rillie said he doesn’t understand why he wasn’t considered a viable option for custody, even though, he said, he had a paternity test done and he was Zion’s biological father.
“It could have been prevented from day one, or the other times when the law would step in. It could have been prevented if somebody would have told me. If someone would have told me, none of these things would have happened from day one,” Rillie said.
Since 2003, there was a consistent police presence in Lalonie’s life.
Beginning in 2017, she was the subject of several police reports in Marietta and Cobb County, ranging from arguments, threats, damage to property, domestic disputes, trespassing and hit-and-run vehicle crashes, to DUIs.
Both, a pregnant Lalonie, and her boyfriend, Craig Irby are found passed out inside a car in the Family Dollar parking lot, at 1605 Austell Road, in Marietta around 11:30 a.m.
Lalonie is in the driver’s seat and speaks to police. She is groggy and sluggish and tells officers that she was trying to get some sleep after an argument with her mother.
Irby is still sleeping.
She gives police permission to search her car and says there is nothing inside that she isn’t supposed to have.
In the backseat, officers find a clear baggy with Oxycodone and Xanax pills. Irby also has two empty prescription bottles in his jacket pocket. Police are unable to revive Irby.
EMS arrives on the scene and they begin working on Irby. He's transported to WellStar Cobb Hospital in Austell for treatment.
No one is arrested.
At 4:30 a.m., two months before giving birth to her son, Zion, Lalonie’s Mercedes is sitting face-to-face with a Hyundai on the road, at 691 Bothwell Place in Marietta.
Inside the Hyundai, police find Derrick Watson and Amanda Bowling and discover a plastic bag containing what is believed to be meth. Police also locate a pill bottle with 13 Alprazolam pills and three Oxycodone pills. A search of Bowling’s purse results in two additional plastic bags with, what is suspected to be, meth residue.
Watson and Bowling are arrested and taken to Cobb County Jail.
Lalonie drives away from the scene in her car.
Marietta Police investigate reports of suspicious activity at Kennestone Hospital where Lalonie, then-30, has been admitted and is in labor.
Lalonie admits to nurses, Brandi Shaw and Debbie Brown, that she has recently taken street-purchased Oxycodone and Xanax—a toxicology report indicates she did use both.
Irby brings Lalonie illegal narcotics while she was in labor, and they both partake in the drugs.
Hospital security asks Irby to leave when he’s caught smoking marijuana inside Lalonie's hospital room.
In the DFCS case summary, Irby is labeled as a “putative father” which means that the legal relationship has not been established. Rillie is also listed as a putative father.
At 11:21 a.m., police find Irby in the hospital parking lot under the influence of drugs and in possession of methamphetamines and related paraphernalia, including a spoon, playing card and a straw with drug residue.
According to the officer, Irby’s eyes are bloodshot and watery, and his speech is slurred. He tells officers on the scene that he took two Percocet the night prior—but denies that he used any legal or illegal drugs today.
Along with the paraphernalia found in the black 2012 Mercedes C250’s center console, the officer also finds a purple pouch, decorated with silver studs. Inside are several prescription bottles with Irby’s name typed on the pharmacy label.
Police arrest Irby and charge him with possession of methamphetamine.
At 37 weeks, Zion is born, weighing 4 pounds, 14 ounces—it’s Lalonie’s second child and fourth pregnancy.
According to police, both Lalonie and her newborn son, Zion, have opiates in their systems.
Following Zion’s birth, DFCS is notified and officials visit Lalonie in the hospital to ensure the child's safety and provides her with parenting instructions.
After reviewing a complaint from the hospital that Lalonie is providing, “inadequate supervision,” while at the hospital, DFCS concludes that there are "no concerns with the mother’s ability to care for the baby.”
A DFCS manager briefs Lalonie on “Safe Sleep,” including specific instructions on the proper, safe sleeping position, specifically the child on his back.
Lalonie signs an acknowledgement letter.
During Zion’s newborn checkup, Lalonie is, again, given instructions on proper sleep positions as stated in the medical chart: “Infant on back and in own bassinet or crib.”
Furthermore, she is provided with a “Bright Futures” parental handout that instructs, “Put your baby to sleep on his or her back, in a crib, in your room, not in your bed.”
Lalonie confirms to the doctor that Zion sleeps on his back.
Police pull over Lalonie for failing to maintain her lane.
Upon running the car’s tag, police uncover that her car has a suspended registration and no valid insurance.
Her Mercedes is towed.
A 2-month-old Zion is allegedly having sleeping issues when he lays on his back.
As a solution, his mother is told to elevate the small infant’s head when he sleeps.
At 6:44 p.m., police find Troup passed out behind the wheel of her vehicle at Heritage Court on Battery Avenue in Cobb County, with heroin, oxycodone and Xanax in the car.
Zion is found in the car’s backseat, wearing a soiled diaper, sitting unrestrained in a car seat, that is also unrestrained.
Troup is arrested and charged with a DUI for drugs and child endangerment.
Zion is taken into protective custody.
The Cobb County Juvenile Court grants custody to Lalonie’s mother, Kim Troup.
A special appointed attorney general (SAAG), representing DFCS, argues to the court, during questioning, that there is concern about the family’s living situation, since Lalonie and Kim live together. Lalonie also lives with Irby and her 12-year-old child.
According to the DFCS case summary report, the judge interrupts the SAAG and does not allow her to finish questioning the mother.
DFCS reports, “The judge did not want to hear anything against the mother because she felt the family had it together.”
However, the court gives the explicit provision on the ruling.
“At no time will the child be left alone with the mother until further order of this court.”
The DFCS’s case summary states: “While there were no specific concerns related to Ms. Kim Troup’s ability to care for Zion, it was felt a more thorough investigation was needed due to the Child Protective Services history of the family before the department could recommend placement. The protective conditions stipulated by the judge were that the mother was to have no unsupervised contact with Zion, although the mother and maternal grandmother reside in the same home.”
At 11:08 p.m., police respond to the Steak and Shake on the East-West Connector for a DUI.
When police arrive at the restaurant, they find Lalonie passed out behind the wheel in the drive-thru.
The restaurant manager, Ashley Kramer, 31, and drive-thru attendant, Amber Thomas, 24, tell police that Lalonie entered the drive-thru to order food, but instead hear a “thud, like a crash.” When they find her, the car is still in drive and she has a lit cigarette in her hand.
Police observe immediate signs of impairment.
“Her eyes were struggling to focus, her eyelids were drooping, her speech was extremely slurred and slowed, she had difficulty maintaining focus on the line of questioning, and she appeared to be struggling to maintain consciousness at times,” the officer stated in the subsequent report.
Police ask her what she has taken and she tells the officer that she took her prescribed Adderall, but drifts off, according to police, muttering dates and times to herself—repeating herself over and over.
“Adderall… Xanax… I mean Adderall.”
She tells police that she always talks slowly and slurred.
During a search of her purse, the officer finds heroin inside folded up in a piece of white paper.
She is arrested for a DUI and possession of heroin.
According to DFCS, Zion's family remains under investigation.
“Although Zion had been placed with the maternal grandmother at the 72-hour hearing, the foster care stage remained open in SHINES,” DFCS’ child welfare information system.
The SAAG says, as part of the investigation, two home visits were attempted. The case manager talks to Lalonie on the phone, however, she states she isn’t home at the time that the case manager attempts to visit the home.
A home visit with DFCS is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 1, 2017.
At approximately 1 a.m., Zion is put to bed in his crib upstairs, across from Kim’s room.
An hour later, Lalonie takes him from his crib and gives him a bottle with 2 ounces of formula.
After feeding and burping Zion, she places him face down on her bed with her, downstairs in the master bedroom.
Approximately three hours later, Lalonie calls 911 to report that Zion is unresponsive at 3:51 a.m.
She says she woke up to feed him, but noticed he wasn’t moving and was “hard.”
She tells officials that Zion would stop breathing if he was placed on his back to sleep, so she put him on his stomach.
Marietta Police respond and find Zion lying with his face and head between two pillows. According to Lalonie, Irby is also home, but was not sleeping in the bed with her and Zion.
Zion is pronounced dead.
DFCS is notified of the 911 call.
READ>>> Baby Zion Autopsy
According to the Cobb County medical examiner’s report, Zion is a “normally developed, well-nourished and well-hydrated infant.”
Furthermore, Zion’s body does not appear to have any recent physical injuries present during an external examination.
Police are called to the BP gas station, at 1090 S. Cobb Dr., at 11:10 p.m., after a verbal dispute leads to a gun being drawn.
Lalonie and Samalj Gordon argue inside the convenient store. The disagreement continues when Gordon follows Lalonie to her car, where her mother is.
Kim and Shanta Hayes join the altercation.
Lalonie threatens to turn her husband into a speed bump and run over him. Hayes runs to her Dodge Ram truck and grabs a handgun and begins waving it at Lalonie, pointing it in her direction.
Hayes is arrested for pointing a gun and is taken to the Cobb County Jail.
Cobb County Magistrate Janne McKamey issues a warrant for manslaughter, involuntary felony and reckless conduct.
Lalonie is arrested and charged in the death of her son.
The warrant states, “…accused did endanger the bodily safety of another person: Zion Kingston, by consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that her act or omission would endanger the safety of said person and such disregard constituted a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would have exercised in the situation.”
“[Lalonie] did violate the order of Cobb County Juvenile Court by having an unsupervised visit with her infant child, Zion Kingston.”
Lalonie appears in court on Tuesday, Feb. 27 for her probable cause and bond hearing.
At her hearing, Cobb County Magistrate Judge Gerald Moore tells Lalonie that her addiction to heroin is destroying her life.
"Heroin is taking everything away from you," Moore tells Lalonie. "Until you figure out how to get better and stop taking heroin you're going to continue to hurt yourself and everyone around you."
Lalonie's attorney, John Greco, talks about the many warning signs and failures that ultimately lead to Zion's death.
"The situation, maybe, could have been taken care of early, and we could have avoided this situation," Greco says.
He also asks the judge to put Lalonie in a rehab facility while she awaits trial. Moore says he will consider that option. In the meantime, she is being held in the Cobb County Jail.
But no sentence or rehab will ease Rillie's pain of losing his son.
“To this day, it still feels unreal. I'm just sad. Just, really, day-to-day thinking about it… my son is gone.”
HOW WE DID THIS STORY |
This article was written based off interviews, as well as an extensive investigation into court documents, arrest warrant, DFCS'S case files for Zion, and more than a decade's worth of police reports in Marietta and Cobb County.