Augusta boy, 2, dies from fire injuries

Boy's father was robber shot, killed by Superior Court judge

Jon-Michael Sullivan/ Staff
Firefighters at the scene Feb. 10 of a fire on Carr Street.
Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 12:24 PM
Last updated Monday, Feb. 18, 2013 12:40 AM
  • Follow Latest News

John Thompson’s short life began in misfortune and ended in tragedy.

John Thompson, 2, died of injuries from a Feb. 10 house fire in Harrisburg.
John Thompson, 2, died of injuries from a Feb. 10 house fire in Harrisburg.

The 2-year-old, who was pulled from a burning house in Harrisburg Feb. 10, was pronounced dead Saturday after physicians determined the child had no brain activity, family members said.

He was pronounced dead at 2:51 p.m. at Children’s Hospital of Georgia, according to Richmond County Deputy Coroner Johnny McDonald.

The boy’s 21-year-old mother, Lateia Thompson, said she had decided to let her son be an organ donor. Funeral plans were on hold until after that process had been completed. She said the decision was difficult, but she wanted some good to come from her son’s death.

“I wanted to be able to save a baby or two if I could,” said Thompson, who was waiting with a group of family members at the hospital Saturday afternoon. “I know if it was the reverse situation, I would want someone to help my baby.”

Her son was born on a chilly day in January 2011. By then his father, John E. Howard Jr., had been dead almost six months, she said.

She had met Howard in August 2009. She was 17 and he was 19. A year later, Thompson was facing pregnancy alone. Howard was shot Aug. 20, 2010, by Superior Court Judge Carlisle Overstreet during an early morning burglary at the judge’s home on Cumming Road.

Thompson said she knows Howard had a criminal record, but he was also working two jobs and taking college courses at the time of his death. She had hoped he could get his life in order.

“He did everything for me,” she said. “I wondered, how am I going to do it without him?”

She also wondered what she would say to her son when he was old enough to understand. She wishes that was still her greatest worry.

Even without his father in the picture, Thompson said, Howard’s family was still connected to his life. He was even learning to speak some Spanish from his paternal grandmother, who is Panamanian, she said.

Thompson said she struggled as a single mother living in public housing for a while until she was taken into the Harrisburg home of Sandra Cato last year. She has been dating Cato’s grandson, Michael Rowell, and was working part time, doing customer service and taking courses at the University of Phoenix, she said.

Thompson said most days she would work and go to school while her son stayed with a baby sitter across the street.

Evenings were a regular ritual of eating, “watching SpongeBob a million times” and a bath.

“I would sing him his bedtime songs,” she said, which included the Sura Al-Fatiha, the opening verse of the Quran. “Then he would put his teddy bear to sleep and he would go to sleep.”

Thompson said Feb. 10 had been a day of relaxation and play for the family. They spent some time at the park and with neighbors in the Harrisburg neighborhood before eating and watching a Batman movie at home. They had to go out at 7:45 p.m. to take her boyfriend to his mother’s place of work, she said. They would have ordinarily taken John along, but she said the boy was already asleep.

“That was the first time he fell asleep that early,” she said.

Rather than waking a sleeping baby, they left the boy in the front bedroom and asked a Cato relative, Bill Herrin, to keep an eye on him.

“He said, ‘Leave my door open and I’ll listen for him,’ ” Thompson said.

The group, which included Thompson, Rowell and Sandra Cato, was gone a little more than 30 minutes and was on the way back when Cato got a call that the house was on fire.

Thompson said they turned the corner onto Carr Street and saw the blaze. She jumped out to look for her son.

“John wasn’t outside. He was in the house,” she said. “I tried to go in but somebody stopped me.”

Thompson said she watched as firefighters broke their way into the bedroom through a window and pulled her little boy out of the billowing black smoke. He was handed to another firefighter and rushed to an ambulance.

“I saw John’s lifeless body,” she said. “That is something I never, ever wanted to see.”

The official cause of death was lack of oxygen to the brain and smoke inhalation. He also suffered second-degree burns to his face, arms and legs, McDonald said.

He said Richmond County fire investigators are still working to complete their investigation into the fatal blaze. Family and fire officials agree, however, the fire appeared to have started on the kitchen stove where someone had been cooking with hot oil.

C.A. Reid Sr. Memorial Funeral Home will be handling arrangements, according to family friend James Cato. A funeral date had not been set Sunday evening.

“A family member has donated a plot because the mother doesn’t have any money,” Cato said.

Family members said anyone who would like to help with the costs of the funeral can contact the funeral home.

Thompson said the past week has been a blur of hospital visits, talking with authorities and trying to come to grips with what has happened to her son.

“All of this doesn’t seem real,” she said, in a calm, almost cheerful, tone. She has been trying not to cry because of something her mother, Lateia Hyman, told her when she was younger.

“She always said that when someone dies, if you cry over them it tortures their soul,” she said. “John didn’t like to see me hurting. I don’t want to cause him any more pain.”

Comments (27) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Just My Opinion
6064
Points
Just My Opinion 02/17/13 - 02:06 pm
5
0
So, so sad. At least now

So, so sad. At least now that poor child is with God and is no longer suffering. My most sincere condolences to the family.

PUPPYMOMMA
1367
Points
PUPPYMOMMA 02/17/13 - 03:47 pm
4
4
Sure this baby deserved

Sure this baby deserved better. Rest in Peace, little man. Read the related articles if you want to try and decipher what actually happened. It doesn't sound like Mr. Herrin deliberately let this happen. The house belonged to an older woman on a fixed income who took in Ms. Tia Thompson, the baby's mother, because she didn't have anywhere to live. That could explain why the child was sleeping on an air mattress. We only know what was wrote in the AC. We can wonder where the baby's daddy is and why he wasn't supporting the child and his mother. We can speculate but we don't really know everything. We don't even know where the baby's mom was when this went on. She could have been at work , she could have left the child in her boyfriends care (he was down the street) and he, in turn left the child in the care of the other roommate. There are a lot of questions but it sounds like an accidental fire where an innocent child lost his life.

bealinp
10
Points
bealinp 02/17/13 - 04:27 pm
7
2
Give the family time to grieve

How awful to endure the loss of a loved one, while spectators make judgments about your life. My sincerest condolences to the family and friends of this young man, and my sympathy to those that have suffered needlessly over crass and rude comments made during this time.

just an opinion
2839
Points
just an opinion 02/17/13 - 05:24 pm
6
2
Spectators?

I don't think so. These are folks who just care about the welfare of children. Responsibilty has to start somewhere. And I really don't think the disappearing Bill Herrin is reading this anyway.

LillyfromtheMills
14018
Points
LillyfromtheMills 02/17/13 - 05:33 pm
4
2
Breaks my heart

But by the grace of God, go I.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 02/17/13 - 05:39 pm
4
1
Thank you Lily and Bealinp.
Unpublished

Thank you Lily and Bealinp. May you be blessed.
Condolences to the family and all concerned.

Willow Bailey
20603
Points
Willow Bailey 02/17/13 - 06:05 pm
6
2
Yes, this little baby

Yes, this little baby deserved far better than he got. Hot oil unattended on a stove is not an accident; it is negligence. A baby asleep in the care of "someone" is gross negligence.

LillyfromtheMills
14018
Points
LillyfromtheMills 02/17/13 - 07:15 pm
3
0
Hey Willow

This is beyond my realm of thoughts!

Grandpa Jones
1091
Points
Grandpa Jones 02/17/13 - 09:29 pm
3
0
....

Condolences to the family.

So, the boy's father was the robber shot, killed by Judge Carlisle Overstreet? Interesting new info.

KSL
139473
Points
KSL 02/17/13 - 11:04 pm
3
0
Yes, the poor child did

Yes, the poor child did deserve much better.

PUPPYMOMMA
1367
Points
PUPPYMOMMA 02/17/13 - 11:22 pm
2
1
Wow! That answers the

Wow! That answers the question regarding where the father of the child was.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 02/17/13 - 11:49 pm
2
0
Condolences and prayers go

Condolences and prayers go out to the family.

scoobynews
3896
Points
scoobynews 02/18/13 - 06:49 am
3
0
Seems like a vicious cycle.

Seems like a vicious cycle. If you read the article about the break in it seems that Howard's father died when he was young. Then John Sr. dies before this child is born. Just a very sad situation. Family should have taken this boy in and maybe this could have been avoided. Very sad.

kmb413
533
Points
kmb413 02/18/13 - 08:42 am
2
0
I hope the mother gets all

I hope the mother gets all the support she needs to make it through this terrible situation. I don't know what I would do if I lost my child.

MonaLisa
9
Points
MonaLisa 02/18/13 - 09:36 am
3
0
It blows my mind how

It blows my mind how senseless the world has become. A young child died because of a fire. It sounds like he had a good mother that did not have a lot of money. This is a time of mourning not a place for you to say what was wrong and right, let the police do their jobs. It blows my mind how people seem to have input of what they would and would not do. Pray for the family of the child that was lost. They need it. Who is father was does not make a difference it not okay to judge based others decisions and actions in life. What if it was you in this same situation?
These would not be the things you would wanted to hear, in your time of grief. Build each other up, don't tear each other down.

Willow Bailey
20603
Points
Willow Bailey 02/18/13 - 10:49 am
2
0
The adults in this case can

The adults in this case can speak for themselves, the baby, not so much. The video speaks as well.

PUPPYMOMMA
1367
Points
PUPPYMOMMA 02/18/13 - 10:59 am
1
2
I didn't see any comments

I didn't see any comments above that said what someone would or would not do. The father question came into play because of the mom's living situation. As for the mom, I haven't heard anything about her so unless you know her personally, you don't know what kind of mother she was-good or bad, just poor or what. You only know what it "sounds like".

rebellious
21408
Points
rebellious 02/18/13 - 11:10 am
1
1
PUPPYMOMMA

When you read the article, it answers your questions.

PUPPYMOMMA
1367
Points
PUPPYMOMMA 02/18/13 - 11:33 am
0
0
Article was updated from when

Article was updated from when my first comment was made-Thanks!

MonaLisa
9
Points
MonaLisa 02/18/13 - 12:04 pm
2
2
If you read the the article

If you read the the article it has changed twice and yes it told of the mothers living situation and her struggle. I do not know her personally but saying things like negaliance and leaving the child with someone. I wasn't responding to one person in particular. The article was just not put together well at all. The background of the father and the mother was not needed and the ignorant comments even if no harm was meant just dot need to be said. A young soul was lost before he could truly experience life is all In am saying and the background information wasn't needed. Blame your local paper for putting out a poorly written story PuppyMomma no harm to you i have seen this posted else where and it is said how now news is rushed instead of the gathering all information for a story. No harm no foul.

Willow Bailey
20603
Points
Willow Bailey 02/18/13 - 01:19 pm
1
0
I stand by my comments and

I stand by my comments and hope this baby's horrific death will be properly investigated by the authorities. He isn't here to speak for himself; have some compassion for him.

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 02/18/13 - 04:16 pm
0
0
God bless
Unpublished

Master Thompson's soul.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 02/18/13 - 06:15 pm
1
1
Things always seem so crystal
Unpublished

Things always seem so crystal clear with middle-class glasses (blinders) on.

Willow Bailey
20603
Points
Willow Bailey 02/18/13 - 08:35 pm
1
0
palmetto, are you suggesting

palmetto, are you suggesting the child doesn't deserve a proper investigation into the circumstances and responsibilities of his death? That's your choice, but don't pretend to play the high road and lecture me because I think he does.

Will
75
Points
Will 02/18/13 - 09:20 pm
0
3
A recipe for sorrow....
Unpublished

Considering the cards this kid was dealt early in life, I believe God does everything for a reason. Unfortunately, his mother (and possibly father) obviously did not believe in God. Do I now feel any remorse about Overstreet's actions? No. He's still a hero....

AJUSMC
10
Points
AJUSMC 02/19/13 - 08:46 am
2
2
A recipe for sorrow....? Really?

So you think that every family that is struggling are always going to have unhappy ending? You feel that maybe if they would have prayed to your god, this little boy would have been in a better home? You don't think the mother was doing her part by working and going to school to hopefully bring a better future for herself and her son? This is just a terrible accident that could have happened inside any home. Whether or not they prayed to your god.

Overstreet's actions are anything but heroic. They are not giving out too many medal's nowadays for shooting unarmed young men. He had every right to shoot him, but was it the best choice? I'm sure he could have easily instructed him to drop the TV and lay on the ground until the cops arrived. But no, he choose to take the life of an unarmed young man that was trying to take his TV.

b1
225
Points
b1 02/19/13 - 09:31 am
0
3
rethink your article next time

First I would like to offer my condolences for this poor child and mother. i pray she finds peace soon.
Now on to Steve. Steve, to put the info and subtitle regarding Judge Overstreet in this article in nothing short of poor journalism! Judge Overstreet did the ONLY thing he could under those circumstances! Let's not forget!!! This husband, that you paint in postive light, WAS ROBBING HIS HOUSE! I only hope that more people are like Judge Overstreet! You Steve have disgraced yourself and this paper for running this article. You could have easily left out that part.

AJUSMC
10
Points
AJUSMC 02/19/13 - 01:05 pm
1
1
Great article!

Thank you Steve for including the extra facts about the history of this young boy’s family. Seeing everything that the mother has gone through with the boy's father and now the death of her son has truly touched me. I have helped donate towards the funeral and I hope everyone that is praying for the family is also actually doing something that will help. Please contact C. A. Reid's Funeral Home in Augusta and donate to help the family cover the funeral costs. Again, thank you Steve for getting the word out about this family's hardship. Unfortunately, you have readers that want you to censor the facts to make someone that is still alive to look like a hero. I would like to think that we live in a country that stealing is not punishable by death. I agree that Judge Overstreet had every right to protect his home. But he also had choices, and he chooses cowardly. That is why they have true Men and Women protecting our streets in uniforms that are brave enough to say "Freeze! Hands where I can see them." instead of pulling the trigger because they put a CD in their pocket while walking out of Best Buy. Judge Overstreet had the upper hand and did NOT have ONLY one option.

Steve Crawford
99
Points
Steve Crawford 02/19/13 - 01:11 pm
4
0
Positive light?

b1 -- If reporting that someone was killed while committing a burglary paints them in a "positive light," then I'm not sure your definition of positive and mine are the same. The fact is the child was born without a father --a fact that I thought deserved a brief explanation. That the father also, according to his family, was working and going to school when he was killed, just makes it all the more tragic. It appears he had options but chose the wrong path. I could have "easily left that part out," as you say, but it's my job not to leave out uncomfortable facts.
I never knew John Howard and know very little about his life. It would be easy to take the few things I do know and use that to decide who he was or what he was like. It would just as easy for me to take the brief criticism you have written about me and use that to decide who you are. But over the years I've found people are rarely that simple.
As always, thanks for reading.

Willow Bailey
20603
Points
Willow Bailey 02/19/13 - 02:27 pm
2
0
Judge Overstreet is not the issue.

Judge Overstreet did not have the upper hand. His home was broken into in the middle of the night by two unknown assailants, whom he had every reason to believe would cause him bodily harm. As unfortunate as the consequences are, the judge did exactly what he had to do.

Good comment, Steve.

Back to Top

Top headlines

Many remember Carl Sanders

ATLANTA -- A large crowd filled a downtown Atlanta church Saturday for the memorial service for Carl Sanders, an Augusta native who had served as governor in the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
Search Augusta jobs