ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - It was a case that shocked parents across Western New York — accusations that a mother tried to poison her own infant.
But in the end, the district attorney believed she didn’t do it. He exonerated her.
Now a year, almost to the day, has passed since Kim Lawton’s five-month old baby was taken from her. And even though the district attorney says she’s innocent, she still hasn’t gotten her son back.
Like many relationships that come to an end, the one between Kimberly Lawton and Thomas Meyers started out well, and ended ugly.
“When times were good, they were great,” Lawton said. “But I have endless emails and text messages. I can just quote one of them for you: That I’m an evil person who got pregnant on purpose and was just using him for money.”
That pregnancy is what prevented a clean break. They split up before little George was born. And Kim says her interaction with Tom then only got worse.
“I loved him. And it hurt. It definitely hurt,” she said.
This case of a former couple with bitter feelings elevated to a whole other level, on an evening in March 2013, when Kim got a knock on the door from Child Protective Services.
“You know I was shocked. She came into my kitchen. And I asked what was going on. And she said someone had made an allegation that I was putting poison in my son’s bottles when I was sending them to his father’s house,” Kim said.
Kim said she was confused, because every time Tom had George as part of their joint custody agreement, she texted to see how the baby was doing, and Tom always texted back, “good” or “fine.”
The next day Kim says she took George to Women and Children’s Hospital, to get him checked out.
She made sure Tom was there. And the doctors said George was completely healthy.
She thought that was the end of it. But according to Orchard Park Police, Tom gave them a couple bottles of breast milk which he told them he suspected were poisoned.
Five days later, based on a family court order, authorities took George from Kim and gave him to Tom
“I was the only person in the world who had a bond with him. So it’s not like he was just taken from me. I was taken from him,” Kim said. “I think if you ask any parent what it would feel like to have their baby taken from them. There are no words. When my son was taken from me, I just laid on the ground. I laid on my bedroom floor for days and just cried.”
Authorities did not just take her baby; they later took away her two older children who have a different father.
When CPS ruled the allegations were unfounded, she thought the end was near,
But Orchard Park Police never cleared her name. And in October, claiming the bottles tested positive for ethanol, they arrested and charged her with attempted assault on her infant son.
Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita disagreed.
“One of the things we do in the District Attorney’s Office is we are not a rubber stamp for anybody. We do an independent review of every case, especially every felony case to make sure there is sufficient evidence to prosecute someone,” Sedita said.
“I really believed once someone took the time to look at the evidence I would be exonerated. I always knew that. I always felt that, 100%. It’s just no one took the time until it reached the DA’s lap,” Kim said.
“It is my belief that the defendant is innocent,” Sedita said.
According to Sedita, there was only a trace, harmless amount of ethanol found in the bottles. And he believes it was produced naturally, as part of the fermentation process. He says that likely happened as the bottles sat at the Orchard Park Police Department for two weeks, then the state crime lab for two months before being tested.
“Every nursing mother knows you can’t leave the bottles out for more than 4-6 hours or the milk spoils,” Kim said.
A grand jury decided in March not to indict Lawton. Eleven months after her baby was taken from her, the charges were dropped.
“My son went from a five month old baby to being a year and a half now. And that time can never be made up,” Kim said.
When asked if she’s even seen pictures of him or knows what he looks like now, she said, “I’ve seen pictures of him because my son’s father posted pictures of him on Plenty of Fish. A dating website.”
Kim and her attorney Steven Cohen are preparing a lawsuit against the Orchard Park Police and Tom Meyers.
They believe Meyers, who owns more than a dozen McDonald’s restaurants in New York and Pennsylvania, set her up after she filed for child support.
Because as soon as she did, Kim says Tom sent a bottle of milk to a lab in Michigan that specializes in litigation.
“When that bottle came back it showed there was Coumadin and cleaning product in the bottle. And he took that report, and that’s what he gave to CPS. He said look, I have this report, she’s poisoning our son,” Kim said.
But more important to Kim than a lawsuit, is the reunion she’s still waiting for. Weeks continue to pass since the district attorney exonerated her, and none of Kim’s children have been returned to her.
“It’s heartbreaking that I’ll never see my son’s first step. I’ll never hear his first word. But I’m just focusing on all the memories we have ahead of us to make,” Kim said.
Through his attorney, Thomas Meyers declined to be interviewed for this story. The Orchard Park police chief also declined to comment.
Kimberly Lawton has a change.org petition where she includes more information on what she calls a fight for justice for her family.