Toddler died choking on cereal in locked room

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DANIELSON, Conn. (WTNH) — Renee Peterson would leave her boyfriend’s two young sons home alone every day she had to go to her drug treatment program in Willimantic, according to police.

Last Wednesday, April 26, that proved to be a fatal mistake.

Peterson, 32, appeared in court Thursday for the death of her boyfriend’s 2-and-a-half-year-old son who police say choked on cereal after being left locked in a room with his 1-and-a-half-year-old brother.

“My client does not have any criminal history whatsoever,” said Peterson’s counsel. “She’s had no prior contacts with the criminal justice system.”

Peterson faces charges of risk of injury, reckless endangerment and cruelty to persons. Other charges may be forthcoming. She is being held in lieu of $125,000 bond.

Police say Peterson returned to the Putnam home she shares with her boyfriend David Mahan to find the toddler slumped over. She called 911, performed CPR and attempted to scoop the cereal out of the boy’s mouth.

“She gave them cereal so they wouldn’t be hungry and the baby choked on cereal,” Danielle Boncek, a friend of Peterson, said outside court. “She came home, she tried to sweep it out of his mouth but it was just too late.”

Peterson and her two daughters, who are now in DCF custody, and Mahan and his sons were living in a first-floor apartment on Mechanic Street. Mahan was at work at the time of the incident. The father faces the same charges and is awaiting extradition from Massachusetts.

“She made a mistake and she knows that,” Boncek said. “Unfortunately, it’s not the kind of mistake that you can’t just start over.”

Peterson is due back in court May 2.

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