- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A utility company disconnected an illegal electric hookup late last month at a home on Maryland’s Eastern Shore where a man and his seven children died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a gasoline-powered generator, officials said Tuesday.

Delmarva Power officials said in a statement Tuesday that they discovered March 25 that a stolen electric meter was being used at the home and workers disconnected it for safety reasons.

Rodney Todd, a divorced 36-year-old kitchen worker at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and his two sons and five daughters were found dead Monday inside the Princess Anne home by police after a co-worker grew concerned when he failed to show up for work.

There had been widespread speculation that Delmarva cut off the family’s power in the dead of winter, which is an illegal move for Maryland utilities, even for unpaid bills.

Princess Anne Police Chief Scott Keller confirmed Tuesday that the accidental poisoning was caused by a generator found inside the kitchen. The generator was out of gas and its switch was on when police arrived at the scene. Chief Keller said all of the children were found in their beds and appeared to have been asleep when they died.

“They needed some light probably, maybe even some heat because toward the end of March, even though it was spring, we were having some pretty chilly nights,” Chief Keller said. “I believe he had gotten himself a generator and wanted to put the lights on and a little heat going on. They lay down, and that was probably the end of the story there as far as they were concerned.”


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It was unclear when the family died. The last time anyone saw or talked with members of the family was March 28, Chief Keller said.

Somerset County Schools sent officials twice to check on the family on April 1 after the children failed to show up for school for several days, said spokesman Leo Lawson. Nothing looked amiss at the home, the school workers said, and they were unable to make contact with anyone.

Mr. Todd retained full custody of the children when his divorce from Tyisha Luniece Chambers was finalized in September. Court records identified the boys as Cameron and ZhiHeem, and the girls as Tyjuziana, Tykeria, Tynijuzia, TyNiah and Tybreyia. The children’s grandmother Bonnie Edwards said her grandsons were 13 and 7, and granddaughters were 15, 12, 10, 9 and 6.

“There was nothing he wouldn’t do for them,” Ms. Edwards said. “All he was trying to do was to keep his kids warm.”

The Todds began renting the home in November and, according to Delmarva Power, never sought to turn on the power over the winter.

Delmarva spokesman Matt Likovich said power to the home was disconnected in October at the owner’s request and “there was no request to reconnect service” since.

Maryland law bars utilities from terminating electric service for nonpayment of bills from Nov. 1 through March 31 without an affidavit filed to the Public Service Commission.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 703 deaths related to generator use from 2004 to 2013. Of those deaths, 141 occurred in situations in which electricity was turned off for nonpayment, and in another 117 cases in which electricity was off for unknown reasons. The commission said 203 of the deaths occurred during power outages.

Mr. Todd received assistance paying his utility bills in the past, but he did not apply for help this year, said Tom VanLandingham, who directs the Office of Home Energy Programs in Somerset County. Families can apply once a year, and assistance is based on household income and energy use, among other factors.

“We’re all kind of baffled as to why he did not apply this year,” Mr. VanLandingham said. “That’s the million-dollar question.”

It was unclear whether Mr. Todd tried to get the power reconnected after Delmarva disconnected the illegal hookup.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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