Sonora Police are investigating the death of a 22-month-old boy who was admitted to Adventist Health Sonora in January for flu symptoms but was found to have severe brain and internal organ damage.
Koltyn Sparks was unresponsive when he was airlifted to University of California Davis Children’s Hospital early in the morning of Jan. 15 and died that afternoon.
Police Chief Turu VanderWiel said Wednesday the case is considered a suspicious death for now, rather than homicide, because he has not seen the final report from the Stanislaus County Coroner. Sonora PD was contacted to investigate because the boy had been staying with a sitter on Shepherd Street in Sonora while his mother worked. The sitter took the boy to Adventist Health.
Tracy Gulcynski, Koltyn’s paternal grandmother, said an 87-page report from UC Davis showed Koltyn was severely dehydrated and had been deprived of oxygen.
“My grandson suffered greatly, a slow death,” she said.
VanderWiel said investigators have talked to the mother and the sitter and met with the coroner. He said there are several more people to talk with once he has the final coroner’s report, which will list the cause of death. He said he expects to receive it soon. He also said the investigation has been stymied because of conflicting information his department has received from UC Davis and the coroner’s office.
Asked why he did not release information that a child had died, VanderWiel said he was trying to protect the integrity of the investigation.
“We wanted to hold off until we knew what we had,” he said. “We don’t announce every death.”
The family contacted The Union Democrat. They said they are frustrated with the pace of the investigation.
“It’s confusing. It’s emotionally exhausting. You don’t know who to believe or what to believe,” Gulcynski said.
She said Koltyn was a happy boy, big for his age, who loved music. He would have celebrated his second birthday Feb. 10.
One of her favorite memories was about a month before Koltyn died when she was driving him to see his father in Ceres. A country song came on the radio and he started singing.
“Smiling away,” she said.
He loved to ride his bike, and when he said thank you he didn’t say it just once.
“Thank you, thank you,” he’d say, his voice rising.
She said the whole family gathered in the room with Koltyn at UC Davis — aunts, cousins, friends. Her son, Josh Blackwood, Koltyn’s father, was holding him. It was the first time he had seen him in eight days.
“Koltyn coded,” she said. “I don’t know how my son is holding up. He held him for the last time. He tucked him in for the last time.”