Mother faces manslaughter charge
Tue, Aug 19, 2003
'Addiction' to computer fantasy game may have led to child's death
By Kirby Sanders
The Morning News/NWAonline.net aEUC/ firstname.lastname@example.org
SPRINGDALE -- Three-year-old Brianna Cordell died sweltering in a closed car, while her mother was engrossed in a computer fantasy-game, according to police.
Mary Christina Cordell, 36, was arrested Monday and faces a felony charge of manslaughter, said Brian Simmons, Springdale police spokesman. Cordell, who goes by her middle name, Christina, was being held in the Washington County jail Monday afternoon awaiting a bond hearing.
The charge is a Class C felony, punishable by three to 10 years in prison and a fine up of to $10,000.
Authorities said Cordell and her boyfriend, Eric Long, 21, may have been so fixated with the interactive game EverQuest that she neglected to pay adequate attention to Brianna's whereabouts on Aug. 8, the day the child died.
"The preliminary results of the autopsy indicate death by environmental hyperthermia. This information supports the initial claim as to cause of death," said Jeff Taylor, Springdale police detective.
Brianna was found dead in the front seat of her mother's car at about 3:30 p.m. in the parking lot of the apartment complex at 750 S. 40th St. She lived in an apartment with her mother, 9-year-old brother and Long.
Police said Brianna did not respond to resuscitation efforts at the scene and was declared dead upon arrival at Northwest Medical Center of Washington County in Springdale.
She was buried Friday at the Forest Park Cemetery on Randall Wobbe Lane in Springdale.
"We have cause to believe that there have been recent incidents where the child has been totally unsupervised," Taylor said.
"We also believe that on the day in question, Ms. Cordell was playing an Internet game, EverQuest, for a period of time exceeding two hours, during which she had no knowledge concerning the whereabouts of her daughter. It also appears this is not the first time the child was seen playing inside of a vehicle while unsupervised."
The interactive game, published by Sony Entertainment, is a swords-and-sorcerers fantasy game in which players develop characters who then interact via computer with other players' characters. The players create and navigate their way through a fantasy realm of warriors, magicians, quests and conquests with the characters themselves dictating the flow of the game.
Notes posted under Christina Cordell's name to a computer group called "Spouses Against EverQuest" say her ex-husband's attachment to the game was partly responsible for their divorce and that Cordell felt the game was "addictive."
A message posted on the bulletin board at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/spousesagainsteverquest/ dated May 5 under the name of Christina Cordell says, "I feel sorry that people get wrapped up into this and destroy their relationships. I just hope that one day they will wake up before it's too late and realize they are alone with no real friends and their family is gone."
Dr. Robin Ross, forensic psychiatrist at Ozark Guidance, said while there is no recognized "addiction" to fantasy games, according to the American Psychiatric Association, "it's possible for people to become addicted to just about anything -- just the Internet itself. If they are spending an inordinate time doing one thing, that can indicate addictive behavior.
Edited by: Windailya at: 8/20/03 6:50 am