WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WJBF) – Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams released a statement and a report concerning the drowning of 4-year-old Israel Scott.
Sheriff Williams Statement says,
On June 14, 2022 the Burke County Sheriff’s Office along with Burke County EMA responded
to 113 Deer Run Road, Hephzibah, Georgia concerning the possible drowning of a child. Our
investigation revealed that Israel Scott, a 4-year-old male along with nine other children were
attending swimming lessons being provided by Mrs. Lexie Tenhuisen. At some point nearing
the end of the lesson, Israel got into the deep water of the pool, undetected. Mrs. Tenhusien’s
granddaughter noticed Israel in the pool and notified Tenhusien who had just gotten out of the
pool with the children to dry off after the last child’s swimming relay. Tenhuisen immediately
jumped back into the pool to rescue Israel. At this time, Israel was unresponsive and Tenhusien
and a parent (registered nurse) who was waiting for her child’s lessons to start started CPR.
Israel was taken by ambulance to Burke Medical Center and later transferred to The Children’s
Medical Center in Augusta, where he later passed away.
In the days following this incident our investigator attended the autopsy, interviewed Mrs.
Tenhusien, the children in the swim class and those who arrived awaiting class, and parents
who were present during the incident. We have exhaustively researched data on child
drownings, student-teacher ratios during swim instruction, safety protocols and general
information germane to the case. Georgia Law reads, “A crime” is a violation of a statute of
this state in which there is a joint operation of an act or omission to act and intention or criminal
negligence. Criminal negligence is an act or failure to act which demonstrates a willful,
wanton, or reckless disregard for the safety of others who might reasonably be expected to be
Our office and our community are deeply saddened by this tragic loss. We have grieved and
continue to grieve with all parties involved. We offered at the onset our sincerest sympathy to
the Scott family. One does not expect to take his/her child to swimming lessons to learn water
safety and not have the child returned to them safely. We have been in constant contact with
the Scott Family and shared the findings of the case privately, prior to releasing any
information to the public.
We met with Assistant District Attorney Rex Myers and presented our investigative findings.
While there may be some form of negligence, it was determined that the case lacks sufficient
evidence to prove criminal negligence. As a result, we are unable to move forward with this
case. Our findings have been forwarded to the District Attorney for further review.
With a heavy heart, I remain.
Sheriff Williams also released a detailed report from the incident and the on duty officer’s notes that you can read below.
District Attorney Jared Williams released the following statement:
The District Attorney’s Office first wishes to express our deepest and sincerest condolences to the Scott family.
No parent should have to say goodbye to her child so early and unexpectedly. The loss of this little boy is a
tragedy, and the community’s heart breaks for this family.
As of the time of this writing, the District Attorney’s Office has not received the completed case file regarding
the investigation into Israel Scott’s death. Because of that fact, there has been no charging decision made by
our office. We have spoken with Sheriff Williams and expect to receive the full file this afternoon. A panel to
include the Deputy Chief of Special Victims, Deputy Chief of Operations, Chief Assistant District Attorney,
and myself will be convened to review the case in its entirety. Our investigative team will conduct any follow up investigation that may be deemed necessary. The decision on any potential charges will be made
independently of any other agency. That is what justice demands, and what this family and community deserve.
At the conclusion of the panel’s review, we will announce a decision. Until that time, no media inquiries or
other requests for comment will be granted. It is our job to remove emotion and external pressure from this
decision and analyze the law and the facts of the case fairly. Integrity, Fairness, and Justice are our office’s
guiding principles, and that will remain true throughout this independent review.