- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

MESA, Ariz. (AP) - A 5-year-old boy who died along with his mother at a suburban Phoenix children’s hospital was found with a ligature around his neck, police said Monday.

Nurses at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa found the woman and her son dead inside the child’s room while conducting a 2 a.m. bed check Saturday, Mesa police spokesman Steve Berry said.

The mother had a fatal gunshot wound, Berry said, and the deaths still are being investigated as a murder-suicide.

Police still are unclear on how the woman sneaked a gun into the hospital, which has a policy prohibiting firearms and weapons.

The child was found unresponsive with a ligature around his neck inside a private-suite hospital room, Berry said. Detectives say that the ligature used was a piece of medical tubing commonly found in a hospital or medical setting.

Hospital staff cut off the ligature but could not revive the boy, Berry said. The cause of death is pending an autopsy by the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office, he said.

Authorities have identified the mother and son as 27-year-old Lola Griffith and 5-year-old Helious Griffith.

Police said the boy had been hospitalized for the past week but wouldn’t release any other details, citing privacy rules.

But Lola Griffith’s father said his grandson was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age 1, and his daughter feared losing custody of her special needs son to the state’s child welfare agency.

Shannon Griffith also said his grandson was being treated at the hospital for strep throat.

The mother had an open case with the Arizona Department of Child Safety and she was the boy’s legal guardian, Berry said.

In a statement Monday, Department of Child Safety officials said the agency received unsubstantiated reports of child neglect involving Helious Griffith in August 2011, November 2011 and April 2012. But last Sept. 28, the agency investigated another neglect report and found the boy underweight. He was admitted to a hospital.

Department of Child Safety officials said they decided last Thursday to file a petition with the court requesting an in-home dependency that would allow the boy to remain with his mother and family in his home while the court monitored services and progress.

“This was to ensure the safety of Helious while affording his mother physical custody and necessary service provision,” the agency’s statement said. “This was to begin upon Helious’ discharge from the hospital. Helious was murdered before that occurred.”

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