A 2½-year-old girl was found dead in frigid weather outside her Newport home Monday morning in what police said appeared to be a tragic accident.
Newport police said the girl, Sofia Van Schoick, apparently got out of the house overnight as temperatures dropped to about 8 degrees below zero.
Neighbor Shane Rowe and his girlfriend found the girl’s body Monday morning. She was dressed in pajamas and was steps away from the door.
“I saw a little girl next to the bottom of the stairway,” he said. “I said to myself, ‘I hope that’s a doll.'”
Rowe said he and his girlfriend were woken up early in the morning.
“My girlfriend actually heard a little girl crying about 4 o’clock,” he said.
But Rowe said they couldn’t see anything, so they went back to bed. At about 7 a.m., when his girlfriend went out to start the cars, Rowe saw what he was hoping was a doll.
“My girlfriend came out, and she ran out and she went over and saw that she was actually a child,” Rowe said. “She banged on the door to alert the parents.”
Rowe said the mother scooped the child up, wrapped her in a blanket and called 911.
“Newport emergency personnel responded and found she was not responsive and was found to be deceased,” Chief James Burroughs said.
The girl’s grandfather, Lindsay Van Schoick, said that Sofia, her pregnant mother and her twin brother, Camden, moved to Newport a few days ago and were still settling in. He said Sofia often got up in the night and wandered around the house, and he wondered if she got disoriented in her new home.
“She was a very precocious 2½-year-old girl, way ahead of her time,” he said. “She was very independent, ahead of her time.”
“It’s a phone call that will be engrained in my mind forever,” said Kait Verkest, Sofia’s aunt. “My dad called me. I answered the phone and told him I’d call him back, and he said, ‘No, you need to take this phone call.’ And then he said, ‘Sofia is dead.'”
Rowe said he can’t imagine what the mother is going through.
“It’s got to be devastating, because I know if it were my child, I would be torn apart,” he said.
“There is a lot of blaming herself that is going on,” Verkest said. “It’s so very easy for people to judge — so easy — but this is a tragedy that could happen to anyone.”
Preliminary results of an autopsy showed that Sofia died of exposure and hypothermia, Burroughs said. An investigation is ongoing, but Burroughs said her death appears to be an accident.
As a memorial grows at the bottom of the steps where Sofia was found, Verkest said she will do what she can for her sister, as well as Sofia’s twin brother, Camden.
“We lost one, but there is still one very important, special little boy who is here with us,” she said.
Verkest said she hopes her sister remains strong.
“I’m hoping that she finds strength and sees herself as a valuable person and continues to be a mom to Camden,” she said.
An official autopsy is being performed in Concord. Once that is complete, the family will begin to plan services for Sofia.