The adoptive parents of Gabriel McFarland learned their 4-month-old infant died from internal head trauma 40 days after he was returned to his biological mother.
Police say Gabriel suffered head trauma while in the care of his biological father, 17-year-old high school student Drew James Weehler-Smith.
Weehler-Smith was alone with Gabriel while the infant’s mother left the house to run errands.
Rachel and Heidi McFarland had been raising Gabriel since he was born. The couple was asked to return him at the request of Markeya Atkins, the boy’s 16-year-old biological mother, who never finalized adoption paperwork.
Although the medical examiner determined that Gabriel’s death was caused by an abusive head trauma, Sgt. Jason Halifax, Des Moines Police Department Public Information Officer, said investigators are unable to release investigative details concerning how the head trauma was inflicted.
On April 22, Atkins left Gabriel at her Des Moines, Iowa, apartment so that she could go to the library and make photocopies.
According to a Des Moines Police Department report, Atkins’ friend, Siobhan Williams, stopped by the apartment to pick up a phone charger. At the time, Williams saw Weehler-Smith on the porch outside, holding the baby in his arms.
“She could not see the baby’s face but the baby was not crying,” the report said.
After leaving, Atkins asked Williams to return to the apartment and stay there with Weehler-Smith and the couple’s son. On her way back, Williams witnessed Weehler-Smith driving away.
The friend then notified Atkins that Gabriel may have been left alone. When Atkins raced back to the apartment and met up with Williams, the two women found Gabriel in the apartment, alone and unresponsive.
The boy was in a glider chair with a bottle beside him.
According to a police report, the friend observed “white stuff” all around the outside of the boy’s mouth and that he did not appear to be breathing.
On a 911 call, Williams can be heard desperately trying to save the boy by administering CPR.
Attempts were unsuccessful and Gabriel was later pronounced dead at Iowa Methodist Hospital.
Sgt. Halifax said Atkins consented to a search of the apartment. No blood was found at the scene.
Heidi McFarland said she learned about Gabriel’s death on the news.
“I happened to watch the news that day and found out,” McFarland said about the boy she and her partner, Rachel, had named and raised since birth.
“I actually never got to say goodbye,” she said.
Weehler-Smith has been charged with first degree murder and child endangerment resulting in death. He is facing life in prison on the charge of first degree murder and a maximum of 50 years, if convicted, on child endangerment.
HLNreached out to Wheeler-Smith’s attorney, but calls were not immediately returned.