One of Bradley County’s most followed stories this year centered on the tragic deaths of two young boys and the conviction of their mother in their deaths, and how the effects of methamphetamine and its production were a factor.
Natasha Moses Bates will serve two consecutive life sentences in the deaths of her sons, River Bates, who was 3 years old, and Leland Bates, who was 5. The Cleveland Daily Banner news staff ranked the trial and conviction No. 4 on the list of the Top 10 Newsmakers of 2013.
The Bates children died June, 28, 2012.
They died as the result of extremely elevated body core temperature, according to autopsy results.
Bates was transferred to Nashville’s Tennessee Prison for Women after her trial, which lasted several days in July.
Investigators with the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office believed the two young boys had been left unattended and were inside a car during a heat wave that struck Bradley County — taking temperatures into the triple digits for several days.
Narcotics use by Bates was believed to be a contributing factor, which led to two counts of aggravated child neglect charges, two counts of first-degree murder and multiple narcotics charges.
“This was a meth case,” assistant District Attorney General Stephen Hatchett said to a jury.
Bates was also sentenced to 40 years for the use and manufacture of methamphetamine.
Investigators found components of methamphetamine production after continuing the investigation into the children’s deaths.
She was originally charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated child neglect, four counts of initiating methamphetamine manufacturing, and promotion of manufacturing meth at her Keith Valley Road residence.
She had told Bradley County Sheriff’s Office Detective Dewayne Scoggins the children had been inside the car, then stated they were lying outside the car and she found them when she went outside to get clothing from the vehicle’s trunk.
Bates reportedly put the boys in her car and took them to her father’s house, where 911 was called.
Initial reports indicated that emergency personnel were responding to a drowning, due to the fact the boys’ bodies were wet.
Their core-body temperatures were in the triple digits due to the heat.
River Bates’ temperature was 109 degrees Fahrenheit while Leland’s body core temp was 103 degrees.
Leland survived initially and was flown to Erlanger Medical Center where he died a short time later.
“Kids in general have areas which make them much more susceptible to heat injury,” explained Bradley County Medical Examiner Jeffrey Miller.
“Kids produce more heat per body/calorie count than adults do. If they are active, they are producing more heat. Their cardiovascular system has a lower output rate and a lower heart rate and they don’t push as much blood.
“That decreases their ability to push more blood out of the core to the periphery. They are more susceptible to gain heat from the environment than we (adults) are,” Miller said.
Miller also said children have “a reduced capacity for sweating.”
The cycle of heat-related illness is complex. Ultimately, the cycle evolves with the brain and body shutting down and possibly causing death, according to Miller, who explained the elements of the heat-related sickness shortly after autopsy results were released in 2012.
According to her attorney, 10th Judicial District Public Defender Richard Hughes, he will continue the appeals process in the sentencing, as well as file for a new trial.