Toddler found dead in car; mother arrested

TULALIP, Wash. -- An 18-month-old girl has died after being found inside a car with her 2-year-old sister on the Tulalip Indian Reservation, and the girls' mother has been arrested.

Someone called 911 Monday evening to report an unresponsive infant found inside a car parked down a gravel road, in the 1000 block of Marine Dr. Her 2-year-old sister was also in the car.

"This is an area leading to an abandoned house, so therefore they were not living down there -- it's a place where people gather once in a while," said Tulalip Tribe Chairman Mel Sheldon.

The 18-month-old girl was taken to Providence Medical Center in Everett where she was later pronounced dead. She was identified by the Department of Social and Health Services as Chantel Craig.

Chantel's sister was taken to Children's Hospital in Seattle for treatment of dehydration but is expected to recover. Neither Sheldon nor police officials gave any further details surrounding Chantel's death or the girls' discovery.

Sheldon described the scene investigators found as terribly tragic.

"I was told that the police officers, the medical technicians, many of them were so heartbroken, that many of them, who've done this time and time again, were actually crying because it just touched their heart," he said.

The girls' family were part of the Tulalip Tribe, Sheldon said. Her mother, Christina Carlson, is being held on possible charges of endangerment and failure to care for the children. Sheldon said the girls' parents had separated and their father is at Children's Hospital with the surviving daughter.

Meanwhile, police are still investigating the little girl's death, but Sheldon said the tribe will come together to support the children.

"The tribe will stand up for this one and the parents in our community, absolutely," Sheldon said.

The Department of Social and Health Services said the agency investigated the girl's mother within the past year for allegations of abuse involving the 18-month-old girl.

A tip led the agency to launch the investigation, which was recently closed because DSHS could not complete it due to an undisclosed reason..

Friend Cyrus Williams said he tried to help the girls' mother through a tough time. He said the family was homeless and had stayed on his land for several weeks.

"I've known Christina off and on for quite a while. She is a good lady, a good friend," he said. "I guess her boyfriend or husband went to jail for abuse. And she didn't have nowhere to stay, so she stayed here."

But the family moved away several weeks ago, said Williams.

"There's a place down there where some homeless stay," he said.

Despite the DSHS investigation, Williams described Carlson as "a good mom."

"And she'd be alright if she had a good place to stay," he said. "I hope she can get a little help somewhere."

Because the child died after DSHS closed its investigation, the agency's fatality review board will review the case file.