As the family of Rodney Todd prepares to lay the father and his seven children to rest this weekend following a tragic carbon monoxide accident in Princess Anne, Md., a family member has opened up to NewsOne about their loss, the odd exit of the Princess Anne police chief during the height of the investigation, and the stolen meter connected to the family’s home.
Tents planted by Boy Scouts in the community have protected the teddy bears and candles memorializing Todd and his children since the incident — a week ago, Todd and his sons Cameron, 13, and Zycheim, 7; and daughters Tynijuiza Todd, 15; Tykira Todd, 12; Tybree Todd, 10; Tyania Todd, 9; and Tybria Todd, 6, were found dead after being exposed to carbon monoxide. The father of seven used a generator to keep the family warm after their electricity was reportedly cut off at the home. Investigators believe the generator ran out of gas and the carbon monoxide “consumed them.”
Averl Johnson, an uncle of Todd’s, says the two grew up as brothers since they were a few years apart. Johnson says the 36-year-old was the epitome of a family man. Since gaining custody of the seven children after his divorce from wife Tyisha Luniece Chambers, he took on responsibilities any father would, like taking them to school, making each birthday memorable, cutting his sons’ hair, and doing funky hairstyles for his daughters.
“Rodney was an excellent father to his children,” Johnson told NewsOne. “There were no limits to his children. His children were friendly and well-known in the community. His children loved their father and he loved them also. It wasn’t uncommon to find him at home on his days off, personally giving his girls new hairstyles and cutting his boys’ hair.”
Described as involved, engaged, and loving, Todd worked at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. It was originally his co-worker, Stephanie Wells, who filed a missing persons report after he didn’t show up to work on March 28. Since the days after the family’s loss, Johnson says the Princess Anne community has given nothing but love and support to Todd’s parents.
“This has been a very devastating time,” Johnson continued. “The family has received a lot of support from friends and family. The community has pulled together in a lot of ways. Churches have helped with a fish fry. Various community leaders have organized vigils in the Todd name.”
While the love of the community has given the family strength, the actions of the power company, Todd’s landlord, and the police department have raised more questions than answers.
According to a report from NBC News, Delmarva Power released a statement denying claims that the power was cut off due to non-payment. Delmarva released a statement on April 7, stating there was a stolen meter connected to Todd’s home and that the power was never turned on. Todd rented out the home in November, shortly after his divorce from Chambers.
“Through the use of smart meter technology, Delmarva Power discovered a stolen electric meter was being used at the home on March 25, 2015,” the statement reads. “Delmarva Power disconnected the illegally connected meter for safety reasons and to comply with standard protocol. Delmarva Power did not disconnect electric service at this address for nonpayment.”
Johnson says Delmarva informed Todd that the meter was unauthorized and needed to be replaced. The family says the landlord hasn’t explained how or who installed the illegal meter at the home and why it was never replaced.
“The utility is claiming the meter didn’t belong to the rental house and service wasn’t requested, Johnson said. “It is unclear where the meter came from that was ‘stolen’ and who put it there. Which leads to the question of why isn’t the landlord talking? Perhaps he could help clear up these questions. We are interested in finding out some answers.”
Johnson says he and Todd’s parents haven’t been contacted by either the landlord or utility company.
Since 2007, Maryland laws implemented the installation of hardwired CO alarms in homes, including in sleeping areas. When it comes to carbon monoxide poisoning in a rental home, a landlord would not be held liable for any injuries if the monoxide exposure was a result of a malfunction in a device on the tenant’s property. However, a landlord would be liable if they didn’t maintain devices in the home.
NewsOne learned that the landlord has reportedly been told by attorneys not to comment on the incident.
The family was also thrown another curveball when Police Chief Scott Keller retired last week. With Keller’s service on the force only lasting eight years, his departure has made it tough for the family to rely on the department for a thorough investigation.
“The timing of the Chief’s retirement seems unusual considering an active investigation is being conducted,” Johnson said.
The family has decided to hold a memorial service for Todd and his children on Saturday, April 18th at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s Ella Fitzgerald Center for Performing Arts. Bennie Smith Funeral Home plans to help cover the costs of the funeral with the addition of any donations they receive from supporters. The viewing is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and the funeral service will begin at 1:00 p.m.
A GoFundMe has also been launched for funeral expenses. In the past week, the family has raised $13,744, less than half of their goal of $35,000.
The police department is continuing their investigation with interim chief Capt. Tim Bozman. As the family prepares for funeral services this Saturday, you can help by donating to their GoFundMe page here.
SOURCE: NBC News