Child advocacy therapy helpful in abuse, neglect cases
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AIKEN, SC (WJBF) – An Aiken County woman sits in jail now facing upgraded charges. This comes after the corner’s report showed her child died from drugs.

Fentanyl poisioning. That’s the official death for Alexzandra Howell’s one-year-old, Alexavia “Zae” Aguirre. Investigators say two other kids also in the home back in January were exposed to drugs too. At the time, Howell was charged with possession of Fentanyl.

While Howell’s in jail, her children are left to deal with the trauma.

“When the parents or caregivers are addicted to substances, I don’t care if it’s drugs or alcohol, we see a lot of neglect occur,” said Maryann Burgess, Child Advocacy Center of Aiken Executive Director.

Burgess told NewsChannel 6 she sees abuse and neglect a lot. Sometimes, she even sees death. So, she sat down with us to discuss what generally happens in cases where children face trauma.

“You might have a sibling group and one child then becomes the parent and cares for the other children or they might go without meals because mom or dad are unavailable,” she explained.

This information shines a light on what may be happening with Alexzandra Howell’s kids. The 23 year old now facing several charges including murder/homicide by child abuse. Arrest warrants for Howell state she intentionally gave her 5-year-old a “Migraine Cocktail,” which is made up of non-prescribed drugs. A toxicology report indicates that child had an overdose of Benzodiazepine, a pill usually prescribed for stress and anxiety.

But it was her one-year-old, Alexavia Aguirre, who went into cardiac arrest on January 20 and died at their home on L and L Lane in Aiken. The coroner’s report listed it was from acute fentanyl toxicity. A four-year-old was also in the home exposed to the drugs, but did not ingest any.

Howell told deputies that day that she took her five-year-old to the emergency room because she suffers from bad migraines. The report states Howell mentioned Medical College of Georgia and Aiken Regional Medical Center before verbally agreeing it was ARMC. But when they arrived, she never went inside because the five-year-old child stated she felt fine. She claims she monitored her for an hour and a half and then went back home. When they arrived, she noticed the one-year-old was cold, but breathing. She moved her closer to an air vent and went on about her day. Later, that child’s lips turned purple and she wasn’t breathing. That’s when they called authorities.

In these cases, Burgess said you have to work with other family members who are not offenders.

“It’s just a series of therapy sessions with that child,” she said. “The caregiver is involved.”

Once in a new home, Burgess said children abused and neglected in the past may not want to make you sad and withhold how they feel. So, you have to watch the signs.

“Changes in behavior,” she said. “Let’s say little Suzie is normally very calm and very agreeable and all of a sudden her behavior has changed where she’s easily agitated.”

Howell’s murder charge carries a sentence of 20 years to life, if convicted. Her first appearance in court is May 5 at 9:00 a.m.

Two weeks prior to her arrest Monday, Howell was arrested and charged with Public Disorderly Conduct and Trespassing.

She was arrested March 6 after Aiken County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to Lakeside Baptist Church on Jefferson Davis Highway in Beech Island, shortly before 8 p.m. in response to a security alarm.

According to an incident report filed in the case, once on scene, deputies found Howell on the second floor of the church going through her wallet and “appeared to be heavily under the influence,” which included slurring her words and not being able to stand straight. She allegedly told deputies she had met with a lady at the front of the church who said she would bring her some clothes. She was there for roughly two hours. Representatives from the church said no one had been at the church since the day before.

She was charged with Public Disorderly Conduct, as well as Trespassing and Unlawful Entry into Enclosed Places.

She was released on a combined $722.50 bond in connection to those charges.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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