EL PASO, TX – A Texas mother is facing charges of child injury by omission following the tragic drowning of her 3-year-old son at a local water park. Authorities allege that Jessica Weaver, 35, was engrossed in her phone and music, neglecting her son, Anthony Leo Malave, at Camp Cohen Water Park in El Paso. However, Weaver’s defense team argues that the park’s lifeguards were the ones who failed to perform their duties.
Witnesses at the park during its “soft opening” in May reported that Weaver seemed to be paying little attention to her son before his drowning. Following her arrest in Indiana, her home state, on August 30, Weaver was extradited to Texas. She was then booked into the El Paso County Jail on September 22 and subsequently released on a $100,000 surety bond.
According to the El Paso Times, one of the 18 lifeguards on duty at the park pulled Anthony from a 4-foot-deep section of the pool where he had drowned. Despite the availability of life vests at the facility, Anthony was not wearing one. Camp Cohen’s rules stipulate that children aged six and under must be supervised by an adult within arm’s reach at all times.
Several witnesses provided statements to investigators on the day of the incident. One witness claimed that a woman matching Weaver’s description was engrossed in her phone for over an hour, paying no attention to her surroundings. Another witness reported seeing the woman taking photos throughout her time at the pool.
Weaver’s defense team has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the city, alleging “gross negligence” by the park and its lifeguards led to Anthony’s death. The lawsuit also names ASM Global, the entertainment company hired to manage the camp, as a defendant. The defense argues that the city showed a lack of concern by not requiring lifeguard candidates to have prior experience and alleges that surveillance footage from the day of the incident was destroyed.
El Paso District Attorney Bill Hicks has dismissed the lawsuit’s relevance to the criminal case, stating that every child death is reviewed and prosecutions are handled on a case-by-case basis.