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One month after her child died, Wagner woman arrested for child abuse and labeled 'danger to community'

The mother allegedly admitted to leaving her children home for over 8 hours the day before the boy died, knowing the older siblings were not suited to be caretakers.

Wagner Police.jpg

WAGNER, S.D. — The mother of a boy who died from suspected child abuse is now the second person to be charged and arrested in relation to the child's death.

Calarina Drapeaux, 27, of Wagner, was charged March 15 with felony abuse or cruelty to a minor under 7 years old, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Leonard Sharp Fish, Drapeaux's live-in boyfriend, was arrested in February by DCI agents for felony abuse of or cruelty to a minor one day after the 2-year-old child died.

The charges stem from when police in Wagner were called to the local hospital in the early morning hours of Feb. 16 after Drapeaux sought medical attention for her child, who was admitted with “lots of bruising all over the body and green stuff coming out of his mouth,” according to court documents.

After the child had ultimately died from his injuries that morning, Wagner interim police chief Damon Griffith contacted the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, which aids smaller police forces with suspicious death investigations.

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Upon his arrival in the afternoon of Feb. 16, DCI Special Agent Brian Larson viewed the body of the boy.

“The juvenile male had several bruises across his body, to include his face, chest, arms, legs and buttocks. There was a larger area of bruising to the left side of his face and eye area,” Larson wrote in an arrest affidavit. “There were two larger bruises on either side of his buttocks area, near his hips. From my training and experience these two large bruises were similar in shape and size of hand markings.”

In an interview with DCI, Drapeaux told agents that she lives in Wagner with her children and Sharp Fish. Sharp Fish allegedly told police he was aware that the victim’s three older siblings would fight and wrestle “all the time” with the victim, and that he never took action to stop the kids.

When authorities interviewed the other children who live in the home, they said the victim’s bruising came from “dad” punching the victim. Another child said Sharp Fish would hurt the victim by dragging the victim by his leg and pulling him.

The investigation didn’t stop there, however, as DCI agents continued to focus on Drapeaux, after getting an inkling she wasn’t being honest with them.

“Calarina [Drapeaux] gave statements about several events that allegedly happened leading up to this incident that were later found to not be truthful,” investigators wrote in an affidavit. “Calarina claimed that the entire family traveled out of town for the day on Feb. 15, but it was later found that Calarina and Sharp Fish left the residence and went to Sioux Falls that day and left the children home alone.”

Through interviews with other family members, authorities discovered Drapeaux regularly left her children home alone, and that on multiple occasions other family members had to pick the children up because they had been home alone for an extended period of time. The affidavit does not make reference to the ages of the other children.

After obtaining a search warrant, authorities took a look through the home where Drapeaux, her kids and Sharp Fish live. Upon arrival, they found no heater running and an infestation of insects. There was other evidence that one of the children had made a bedroom out of the porch, which Drapeaux allegedly confirmed. Marijuana and other prescription drugs that did not belong to Drapeaux or Sharp Fish were discovered around the home.

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Wagner Water Tower.jpeg
The city of Wagner's water tower. (Republic file photo)

Drapeaux allegedly told authorities that Sharp Fish routinely smokes marijuana inside the home and will occasionally take prescription medication that is not prescribed to him. Police say she admitted to allowing drug use to take place inside the home.

A search of Drapeaux’s cell phone found several messages in which Drapeaux allegedly discussed the purchase of controlled substances for her and Sharp Fish from various family members.

After evidence was gathered, authorities conducted a final interview of Drapeaux on March 15. In the interview, she allegedly admitted to leaving her children home for over 8 hours the day before the boy died and that she knew the older siblings were not suited to be caretakers.

She was ultimately arrested and charged with a Class 3 felony, a Class 5 felony and a Class 2 misdemeanor. After an initial appearance in a Charles Mix County courtroom on March 16, her attorneys requested her $30,000 bond be reduced to a personal recognizance bond. Magistrate Judge Donna Bucher denied that request, calling Drapeaux “a danger to the community.”

Drapeaux will next appear in court on March 29. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison plus a $40,000 fine.

A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021 and now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on regional news that impacts the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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