Mother, boyfriend charged in child's homicide had assault charges during DSS investigation

Mother, boyfriend charged in child's homicide had assault charges during DSS investigation

ASHEVILLE, NC (WIS) - Two people charged in the death of a 3-year-old in Newberry last week not only have criminal records, but a history with the North Carolina Department of Social Services.

Theia McArdle and Richard Bowman – both charged with homicide by child abuse in the death of Gabriel McArdle – are no strangers to law enforcement. WIS investigates team discovered that McArdle and Bowman both have criminal backgrounds with several arrests out of Asheville, N.C., which is where they lived only a few months before relocating to South Carolina in late 2014.

"There are a significant amount of officers in APD (Asheville Police Department) who are familiar with McArdle," said Sgt. Dave Romick, of Asheville Police Department.

McArdle's rap sheet includes multiple charges of assault related to an ex-boyfriend, strangers and her own child.

In 2013, court documents indicate McArdle hit her child in the face with an open hand. The warrant does not give the victim's name, but Gabriel would have been 1 year old at the time of this charge.

"A misdemeanor child abuse charge is when a child is placed in harm's way with the opportunity or chances for harm or injury, but no actual injury takes place," Romick said.

That child abuse arrest prompted North Carolina DSS to investigate the family.

"It weighs pretty heavily, especially with a child under 6," said Angela Pittman, director of Buncombe County Health and Human Services.

During the time the DSS investigation was open, McArdle was arrested six more times for various charges, including two assault charges. All, but one, of those charges were voluntarily dismissed. She was convicted of child abuse and larceny, both of which are misdemeanor charges. She was sentenced to 30 days for the child abuse charge in 2014, but got credit for pretrial time served. McArdle was given probation for the larceny conviction in 2011.

"The criminal record is one part of our puzzle that we're trying to put together when we're working with families," Pittman said. "If we assess that a child is in immediate risk and their safety is in immediate danger that is the criteria for taking a child into the custody of the department."

The N.C. DSS investigation into the family closed in August 2014 – months before Gabriel's death in Newberry.

Bowman, who was McArdle's live-in boyfriend at the time of Gabriel's death, also has a criminal record that shows he was arrested for assaulting McArdle twice around the time DSS was investigating the family in 2013.

After Bowman was arrested for assault by strangulation, McArdle gave the following statement:

"That night we were arguing. I grabbed his phone and dropped it. He punched a hole in the wall. I punched him, and he chocked me."

In September 2013, another arrest warrant says Bowman, "tackled her (McArdle) to the ground, punching her to the head and face with his closed fist resulting in a knot on her forehead and a small laceration on her right eye."

Both of Bowman's charges – the assault on a female and assault by strangulation – were voluntarily dismissed.

McArdle and Bowman were both arrested for criminal domestic violence in Spartanburg County, just two months before Gabriel's death.

"National research around children that are under 6 indicates that they are the group of children who are most vulnerable and most likely to be killed by a parent or unrelated caretaker," Pittman said.

WIS filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the N.C. DSS to review the McArdle case file. At this time, WIS is still waiting to receive that information.

McArdle and Bowman are currently in jail in Newberry County and are scheduled to appear in court in February.

S.C. DSS did not have an open case with this family during the months they lived in the state.

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