The mother of a 5-month-old boy found dead two weeks ago in Pulaski County was arrested Wednesday night on a warrant for felony child neglect.
Samantha Warden is the mother of Cory Cole, whose body was discovered in a rural, wooded area off Old Route 100.
“The information contributing to the initiation of this charge was developed during the continuing investigation into the death” of the baby, Pulaski Police Chief Gary Roche wrote in an email Thursday morning.
After obtaining an arrest warrant on Wednesday, investigators determined that Warden, who is also known as Samantha Anna-Jane Taylor, was staying at a residence in Campbell County. Deputies with the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office located Warden and took her into custody about 9 p.m., according to a news release by Roche.
Warden, 29, was being held Thursday without bond at the Blue Ridge Regional Jail, Roche said.
Warden’s fiance, Howard Cole, was arrested on a child abuse charge after the couple’s son was reported missing on Jan. 29, but no one has yet been charged in the infant’s death.
The cause of his death has not been released by authorities. Roche has said that when the medical examiner’s autopsy report is complete, it could prompt additional charges.
Warden was staying Wednesday at a home in Lynchburg, according to the man who was temporarily housing her. Jonathan Craft said he reached out to Warden on Monday and eventually invited her into his home because the two have gone through a similar experience.
“My daughter was murdered,” Craft said. “I was really reaching out to her because I know what it feels like as a parent to lose a child to something like that …. We had talked about doing fundraisers because I do a lot of child abuse awareness now. That’s what I live for now.”
Craft’s daughter, 13-month-old Veralee Craft, died in July 2012.
Preston Kent King of Roanoke County pleaded guilty in December to a reduced charge of first-degree murder in the death of the baby. The plea, part of an agreement drafted by attorneys, steered King away from a capital murder charge and a potential death sentence.
King, 28, had been baby-sitting Veralee when she stopped breathing July 22, 2012. His girlfriend, Chelsy Marie Lawrence, had left her daughter at his house before working an evening shift.
The child’s body, bruised and lifeless, was removed from life support three days later. A full investigation into the death began after doctors at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital noticed multiple fractures across the child’s body, and severe hemorrhaging inside her head.
King is scheduled to be sentenced in March, according to online records.
Craft said that because of his own experiences, he wanted to help Warden raise money for Cory’s gravestone. After talking to her for more than three hours on Monday, he said he agreed to pick her up from Pulaski. Warden had expressed interest in getting away from the area and was feeling very depressed, Craft said.
Craft said he picked Warden up on Tuesday.
“But on the way down, there was the first red flag,” Craft said. “She was talking to guys, giving her friends down here my address. It made me feel uncomfortable. I was bringing her down here to help her out, and I felt kind of manipulated.”
Warden didn’t show emotion when talking about Cory or the case, either, Craft said.
Craft said Warden slept on his couch on Tuesday night, and as she continued to tell him stories about Cory, Cole and the case, he got more uncomfortable.
In an arrest warrant filed in Pulaski County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court on Jan. 29, Warden accused Cole, 31, of abusing the couple’s son.
The details came from a handwritten affidavit signed by Warden on Jan. 29.
“My son was crying howard got aggravated with my son crying & he picked him up from his crib held him in the air & said shut the fock [sic] up & threw him down on the bed across the room 4ft,” according to the affidavit.
According to the affidavit, the alleged abuse occurred on or about Jan. 26.
The affidavit appears to conflict with statements Warden made Feb. 5 to The Roanoke Times. Warden said then that she was having a hard time comprehending the allegations against Cole because she said she had never seen him abuse her children. In addition to Cory, Warden and Cole have a 3-year-old daughter together, and Warden has a 6-year-old daughter with her ex-husband.
Craft said Warden went back and forth on her story, saying the alleged abuse never happened and then saying Cole only “tossed” the baby on the bed.
“I’m sorry but tossing or throwing the baby is the same thing,” Craft said. “It really angered me that she’s sitting here telling me this stuff.”
Craft said he started talking with investigators in Pulaski, calling them and letting them know that Warden kept changing her story and that “something didn’t seem right.” He was also concerned because Warden was talking about leaving to go to North Carolina, Craft said.
Craft said police eventually told him that Warden was going to be charged, and that deputies from the local sheriff’s office would come to his house to take her into custody.
Craft said he is still planning on raising money for Cory’s gravestone. He’s created a Facebook page called “Justice For Cory Cole,” where members can find information on how to purchase T-shirts for the fundraiser. Craft said he will never deal with the T-shirts or the money, and the proceeds will go directly to the funeral home.
“Even though the mom and dad have been arrested, I believe the child should still have a grave marker,” Craft said. “I still want to help out the child, but as far as helping out the actual family, I’m not connected to the family at all now …. But I would want someone to do something for my daughter.”