Last week a 3-year-old boy drowned in the Prickly Pear Creek northeast of Helena, Mont.
Sheriff Leo Dutton of Lewis and Clark County says that the boy's father, Leo Mathis--a man who'd moved there only a week before from Oak Harbor, Wash.--dropped the boy while drunkenly trying to cross the raging creek with the kid in his arms.
It's a tragedy by any standard. And according to prosecutors, it's criminal.Mathis has been charged with negligent homicide.
According to charging documents provided to Seattle Weekly by the Lewis and Clark County Attorney's office, Mathis and his son Leo Mathis, Jr., aka "Little Man," were walking along a road when Mathis took a phone call.
Mathis told police that he was distracted for a few moments on the phone and when he looked up he saw his boy near the creek.
By the time Mathis got to his boy the child was apparently standing in the water.
For some reason Mathis then decided to try and cross the main part of the creek with the boy and drop him off on the other side.
But along the way "Mathis lost his footing in the main current and dropped his son," writes Lewis and Clark County Attorney Leo Gallagher.
Mathis says he dove into the water several times looking for his son, but obviously he didn't find him in time.
When police arrived they made Mathis take a breathalyzer test, which registered .09, just slightly above the legal limit for driving.
He was arrested later and remains in jail.
Mathis' girlfriend, the the boy's mother Leslie Dillon, is pleading for his release, saying the tragedy was an accident and not negligence.
Prosecutors say otherwise, and if they convict Mathis on the negligent-homicide charge he could be in prison for up to 20 years.