Father to stand trial after autistic son drowns in pool

Associated Press

Hudsonville – A western Michigan college professor whose severely autistic 16-year-old son drowned in an icy backyard pool in March will go to trial on an involuntary manslaughter charge, a judge ruled Thursday.

Ottawa County Judge Judy Mulder said Timothy Koets should stand trial for the more serious charge he faced in connection with the March 28 death of Samuel Koets, 16. She expects to decide in a couple weeks on whether second-degree child abuse charges on which he was arraigned should be included at trial.

Authorities said Samuel’s arms were bound when he was found face down in the above-ground pool behind the family’s home in Georgetown Township, 170 miles (270 kilometers) west of Detroit. Timothy Koets had left him outside when he went to work at Grand Rapids Community College, and the mother, Michelle Koets, was asleep inside after working a third shift as a registered nurse, authorities say.

During Thursday’s hearing, Koets’ daughters, ages 13 and 18, both testified about witnessing their brother standing in the pool in frigid temperatures.

Prosecutors shared text messages between Koets and one daughter after she found him the pool. She said she tried without success to get her brother to come out of the pool.

The girl said her father texted that he would be home in a while. She then woke up her mother, who ran outside, the teen testified.

Authorities said the parents restrained the boy’s arms to prevent him from harming himself or others, and that his basement bedroom was bare and in deplorable condition, including a bed that was a bare mattress stained with feces. Child Protective Services said his room was sparsely decorated because he was prone to breaking things. An abuse and neglect petition filed by the agency in Ottawa County Family Court described Samuel as non-verbal and with a history of aggression toward himself and others.

Several police officers, paramedics and child services workers said in court that they visited the Koets’ home many times after the boy was found wondering. They said Timothy Koets was instructed each time never to leave his son unattended, but no actions were taken against him.

Defense attorney David Kallman said after the hearing that Koets did not leave the boy unattended, and his client told his wife to watch Samuel. Kallman called Samuel’s death “a tragic accident.”