MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (WHTM) – Police have filed criminal charges against the mother, uncle, and grandfather of a 3-year-old girl who drowned in a home swimming pool last summer.
Tiffany M. Graham, 22, of Middletown, allowed her brother, 18-year-old Austin C. Biller, to babysit her daughter at his Lower Swatara Township home, even though the child had previously wandered away while in his care, police said in charging documents filed Tuesday.
Both are charged with felony counts of involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of children.
The girl died July 31 at Penn State Hershey Medical Center after she was found in the pool, in the 100 block of Wayne Avenue, near Biller’s home in the 2000 block of West Harrisburg Pike.
Biller told investigators he fell asleep while his niece was in a high chair and she was gone when he awoke. He said he searched the house and drove throughout the neighborhood looking for her, but police said he didn’t call 911 to report her missing until emergency vehicles arrived in the area more than an hour later.
Home security cameras in the neighborhood recorded the child entering the property where the pool is located but did not record Biller looking for her as he claimed. Witnesses also told investigators that Biller did not appear frantic or call the girl’s name as he searched for her, police said.
Police wrote in the complaint that Graham, by leaving the child with Biller and her father, put her daughter in a place she knew to be unsafe and in the care of people who have proven in the past to not properly supervise her. In addition, police said she failed to ensure the home had proper locks to prevent the girl from wandering.
In May 2015, the girl was found wandering and crossing streets alone while in the care of Biller and his father, 53-year-old Craig Biller. Both men were babysitting the girl again in December when police said she walked outside alone for about 30-40 minutes before she was found in the cold weather wearing only a diaper.
After that incident, Graham and her father were charged with child endangerment and she was ordered to attend parenting classes.
However, police said during the month of her death, the child walked away twice while in the care of the girl’s father, who was charged with child endangerment on July 12, and once while in her mother’s care on July 28, when she was found alone at a Middletown playground that is an eight-minute walk from Graham’s apartment.
Witnesses told investigators there were numerous similar incidents that were not reported to police.
“They had to do better and they didn’t,” Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said. “They failed that little girl, which made this a tragedy.”
Craig Biller is charged with hindering apprehension and tampering with evidence. Police said his granddaughter removed her clothing before getting into the pool, and he removed that clothing from the scene to prevent investigators from getting it.
Austin Biller was placed in the Dauphin County Prison on $10,000 bail. Graham and Craig Biller were released on $200,000 unsecured bail.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 22.