Lufkin man turns himself in to police in connection with daughter's drowning death

Lufkin man turns himself in to police in connection with daughter's drowning death

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A Lufkin man has turned himself into the police in relation to the March 20 drowning death of his child in a Motel 6 pool.

Rondarius Smith, 26, is still being held in the Angelina County Jail on a second-degree felony injury to a child with serious bodily injury charge and two pro fine capias warrants for misdemeanor traffic warrants. Although no bond amount has been set for the felony charge, his collective bond amount has been set at $710 for the two misdemeanor charges.

"We are aware of the charge and are cooperating with authorities in all requests made of us or Mr. Smith," said M. Paul Skrabanek, Smith's Houston-based civil attorney. "Mr. Smith also has criminal counsel engaged to dispute the charge against him."

According to the arrest affidavit, Smith recklessly caused serious bodily injury to Arianna Smith, his 3-year-old daughter, because he failed to adequately secure the motel room to prevent her from leaving and failed to supervise her "after staying up all night using drugs and alcohol."

Lufkin PD officers were dispatched out to Motel 6, which is located at 1110 S. First Street, in reference to a possible drowning at about 4:57 p.m. on March 20. Lufkin Fire Department personnel arrived before the LPD officers, and they started administering CPR to Arianna.

After one of the LPD officers reviewed surveillance video footage, he met with the motel's management and determined that Arianna had come from a room on the first floor, the affidavit stated.

The LPD officer and an LPD sergeant went to the room where the door was found ajar, and the LPD detective who obtained the arrest warrant for Smith reviewed the footage from one officer's body-worn camera that showed the officers making contact with Smith at about 5:14 p.m.

Smith was asleep in the bed closest to the door, and the LPD sergeant had to yell at him and jar the bed to wake him up, the affidavit stated. The TV was loud, and it could be heard on the body-worn camera, the affidavit stated.

Smith told the LPD sergeant that Arianna was his daughter and that she was three years old. When he was asked if he was watching the girl, Smith said yes, the affidavit stated.

The LPD detective who obtained the warrant was asked to assist with the investigation on March 20, and he went to CHI St. Luke's Health Memorial Hospital, where he spoke to Smith.

Smith told the LPD detective that he and Arianna's mother had been staying at the motel since the day before and that Arianna's mother left the girl with him on the afternoon of March 20, the affidavit stated. Smith reportedly told the detective that he and his daughter were watching TV, and he fell asleep.
"He stated that he was not aware of what happened until police arrived at his room," the affidavit stated.

According to the affidavit, the LPD detective got a subpoena from the Angelina County District Attorney's Office for the outside video from Motel 6. In the video, at about 4:35 p.m. on March 20, the door to room 111 opened, and Arianna ran down the sidewalk before she returned to the room at 4:36 p.m. About a minute later, she ran out again and headed toward the pool entrance.

In the video, Arianna opened the gate without any difficulty and climbed down the ladder into the deep end of the pool, the affidavit stated. She got out again and went to the shallow end of the pool. However, she moved back into the deeper water and started to struggle, the affidavit stated.

Eventually, Arianna went underwater and didn't make it back to the surface, the affidavit stated.

"Arianna remains underwater as people walk by and do lawn maintenance around the pool area without appearing to notice her at the bottom of the pool," the affidavit stated.

Seven minutes after Arianna went under, two people entered the pool and noticed her. They pulled her out of the water, and another bystander started doing CPR, the affidavit stated.

Lufkin EMS arrived and took over the CPR effort at 4:55 p.m. Arianna was first taken to CHI St. Luke's Health Memorial Hospital, and she was later airlifted by helicopter to Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. Arianna died at 2:06 p.m. the next day, the affidavit stated.

The medical report stated that Arianna died of cardiac arrest that resulted from her drowning, the affidavit stated.

On March 22, the LPD detective spoke to Arianna's mother. She said that after they went to Smith's grandfather's house, they returned to Motel 6. She said Smith and Arianna were lying down like they were tired when she left to see her sister and run errands, the affidavit stated.
While she was out, Smith called her and asked her to bring him and Arianna some food.

The woman told the LPD detective that she was on her way to McDonald's when Smith called her from the hospital and told her that Arianna had fallen into the pool, the affidavit stated.

"[Arianna's mother] said that she was certain that before she left, she told him (Rondarious) to lock the door," the affidavit stated.

The girl's mother told police that a similar incident had occurred at Motel 6 when another child walked out of the room while Smith was asleep, the affidavit stated.

The LPD detective attended a meeting between Child Protective Services and Smith on March 28. In the meeting, Smith allegedly said the night before the incident, he had been drinking at his grandfather's house and said that he had three to four beers.

According to the affidavit, Smith said that he and Arianna's mother drank tequila at the motel, and he went to a friend's house around 3 a.m. on the morning of March 20.

Smith allegedly said he drank more beer and took a light blue pill "with a transformer on it" that was possibly ecstasy.

[Smith] also advised that he did 3-4 lines of cocaine by snorting it," the affidavit stated.

That morning, he took the school-age children to school. Later that day, he and Arianna's mother smoked "a black," the affidavit stated.

After Smith and the child's mother went back to the motel, the woman left at some point, the affidavit stated. In the meeting with CPS, Smith said that he was sitting up in the bed as Arianna watched Rick and Morty on TV.

"[Smith] advised he guessed he dozed off, and then he woke up, and the police were in the room saying Arianna fell in the water," the affidavit stated.
The affidavit stated that according to Lufkin PD records, the motel's manager called at about 1:54 p.m. on Oct. 9, 2014, to report a toddler wandering around. Police located Smith at the time of the incident involving his son, who was 2 at the time.

At the time, Smith was checked for warrants, and he was arrested for a Class A misdemeanor probation violation and three class C misdemeanor warrants from the Lufkin Police Department, the affidavit stated. The boy's aunt took custody of the child.

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