An apartment manager in Dayton found the lifeless body of a Middletown mother slumped over the steering wheel of a car Wednesday. The woman’s 6-month-old daughter, who had been reported missing just hours before, was unharmed in a car seat in the back of the vehicle.
The Montgomery County Coroner’s office ruled the mother’s death a homicide. The baby’s father, who has custody, said the mother had a heroin problem and drove to Dayton to meet a drug dealer.
Six-month-old Haven Edwards was reported missing to Middletown police around 5 a.m. Wednesday. Shortly after 9:30 a.m., officers were notified the child had been located in a child safety seat in a car behind Dayton’s Twin Manor Apartments on Free Pike.
Her mother, Brittany Russell, 29, of Sherman Avenue, Middletown, suffered a gunshot wound, investigators said.
Russell, the child’s non-custodial parent, took the child from her father’s home around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to Middletown police. The child’s father, Chris Edwards, was at work, and Russell apparently convinced the babysitter to allow her to take the child.
Chris Edwards told police Russell told him she would return the child around 7 p.m. Tuesday, but she failed to do so.
Middletown police later began searching for the mother and child before receiving information from Dayton police about Russell’s death. Middletown officers went to Dayton to pick up the baby, who was reunited with her family in the lobby of the police department.
Edwards, 34, said that he began looking for Russell at about 4 a.m. Wednesday.
He said Russell had a heroin problem and said Dayton is one of the places she liked to hang out. He would not disclose the neighborhood where he searched for her but said he stopped looking and returned to Middletown to complete filling out a police report.
Edwards said he is now starting to think about Haven growing up without a mother.
“That tears me up,” he said, holding his daughter, who was dressed in a pink sleeper.
When asked what led Russell to go to Dayton with her daughter, Edwards called it a “screwed up situation.”
Russell’s sister — whose name is unknown — was visibly upset in the lobby of the Middletown police station Wednesday. She read media reports that described the way her sister had been killed. She was upset by reading it online before hearing from the police or the coroner’s office.
In a 911 call placed to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Regional Dispatch Center, the property manager says she found a woman slumped over the wheel of a car and “blood is behind her ear.”
“I tried to tap on the window to wake her up … she didn’t respond,” the caller said, adding there was also blood on the passenger seat.
The missing person report filed by Edwards at 4:54 a.m. said Russell told her brother that she was going to pick up a man and they said that person was a drug dealer.
Russell had a few encounters with law enforcement — a couple traffic violations and a failure to file a city income tax report, according to Middletown Municipal Court records. She did have a run-in with a neighbor on Dec. 29 when Russell confronted the woman about telling the children’s father she was using heroin with her children in the house. The neighbor wanted a restraining order against Russell.
The man Russell was allegedly giving a ride back to Middletown does have an extensive criminal history involving drugs, child support, obstructing official business and operating a vehicle with a suspended license.