It was in 1991 when Erica Lynn Shoup, an 8 year old little girl from Toledo, Ohio went to visit her father Gerald Wesley Shoup, step-mother, Lynne Shoup, and 2 teenage step-siblings Jason Draper, 15 and Stacy Draper, 13, in N. Fort worth, TX. for summer break.
Erica was described as tomboy who could scrap with all the boys in the neighborhood but would also doll up for pageants to. She had dreams of becoming a dancer when she grew up.
Erica and her father did not have much of a relationship but had reunited at a funeral and Gerald wanted to restore his relationship with his daughter. Plans were made that she would come down to Texas and spend time getting to know him and his new family.
The news would report that Erica was home alone with Stacy and Jason when she suddenly fell ill in the bath and was rushed by paramedics to Cook-Fortworth Children’s Hospital on August 17, 1991. She had second and third degree “blisters” on her legs, feet, buttocks, genitals, stomach and back.
You may remember Erica Shoup, she not only made national news but she also made world news. News reporter’s reported on her “rare deadly disease” every day. Everyone was shocked to learn about this horrible condition that this little girl had and she had teams of specialists working to try and save her life. Collections were taken up, toys and cards were sent and blood was donated.
Although doctor’s called police to report Erica’s condition, tests were performed and doctors said she had an extremely rare skin condition that was fatal called Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis a.k.a. TEN and it was eating away at her flesh. TEN is an almost 1 in a million side effect from some medications or an infection.
Her core temperature had sky-rocketed to 107 degrees causing irreparable brain damage. She was placed on a dialysis machine and respirator because her vital organs were shutting down.
Debbie found out her daughter was in the hospital from an ER doctor late that night. No one else bothered to call her.
It just happened that Gerald was on the same flight as Debbie was. They were both on the way into Fort Worth. When Lynne picked them up she told them she didn’t know exactly what happened but it was an accident.
Gerald Shoup was quoted as saying, “One organ after another was shutting down, when it finally got to her brain that was it.”
Erica was in a coma for almost a month before she died from a massive stroke and a brain hemorrhage on September 12, 1991.
Stacy Draper, the step-sister, said Erica felt faint and her stomach hurt. She said a neighbor came over and said she needed to get to a hospital so they called 911 for paramedics.
Erica’s mom, Debbie L. Speegle never believed that her little girl was suffering from a disease; she knew in her heart that her little girl had been murdered. She said she was told that in the beginning it was an injury, not an illness.
“When I saw my daughter and the condition of her body, I knew it was not an accident,”
Homicide Detectives investigated the death of Erica for 10 months. Lt. John Foley said they were investigating due to concerns that were raised by what was found on the medical examiner’s report.
Sgt. Russell Butler who went on record in 1992 said,
“It may well be the mystery of Erica Shoup’s death may stay a mystery forever until new evidence or new information surfaces to aid police and the district attorney in proceeding with a criminal procedure” and “We have nowhere to go criminally.”
It was apparent that everyone but the attending physicians thought Erica’s death was more than a very rare disease.
Finally, in September of 1992, a year after Erica’s death the Tarrant County Chief medical examiner Dr. Nizam Peerwani ruled that her death was indeed a homicide. Dr. Peerwani says that Erica Shoup died of toxic shock as a result of immersion burns. Her death had finally been ruled a homicide.
Assistant Tarrant County District Attorney David Montague told reporters that they may never solve the case of who killed Erica because there was no proof.
Unfortunately, Erica’s case seems to have gone ice cold.
The Tarrant county grand jury ruled that there would be no criminal indictment because of insufficient evidence.
The Shoup’s moved back to Ohio a couple years after Erica’s death and have refused any allegations of being negligent.
It wasn’t until June of 1995 that Erica Shoup’s case started making news again. Debbie, Erica’s mother won a civil suit in Lucas County Common Pleas Court for wrongful death against Gerald and Lynne Shoup. Debbie was awarded $2,505,000.00 million dollars. $2 million was for Erica’s pain and suffering, $500,000 for Debbie and $5,000 for Erica’s funeral.
The judge found that Gerald and Lynne were negligent and should have taken better care of Erica Shoup. He also said it was their negligence that led to Erica’s death because they left her with Jason Draper after she complained about how mean he was to her and how there had already been earlier abuse by him. Debbie never saw a dime from the civil suit.
Gerald and Lynne Shoup filed bankruptcy immediately after losing the civil suit. Gerald passed away in 2008.
She at least hoped that this verdict would be enough to reopen the case in Texas. She drove from Ohio to Texas annually for 2 years following Erica’s death with nothing gained. She quit driving the 1200 miles but continued calling every year to try and get the D.A. to reopen her daughter’s case. Every year she was turned down until this year when she got ahold of Alana Minton, the chief prosecutor of the crimes against children unit. Ms. Minton said she would look into it. Not long after that she got a call from Tom O’Brian a detective with the cold-case unit telling her that they were re-opening Erica’s case.
“I was careful not to get overly excited about it because so many times I had thought, ‘This is it. This is it,’” Speegle said. “Then after the civil trial, it was like, ‘How can they not do anything now?’ Each time it was ‘Sorry,’ and they sent me on my way.”
Sgt. Pedro Criado, a police spokesman told a reporter that he could not report on what the new evidence was that led to the warrant being issued on December 1st.
Jason Draper, now 34 and married with his own kids was arrested in Columbus Ohio on December 7th for Erica’s death almost 20 years ago. He’s being charged with murder and has been booked into the Franklin County jail. He’s also being held without bond.
Cold case detectives from Texas went to Ohio to question him.
Finally, after all these years Erica’s mother may finally see justice.
“I knew that this young man who did this to my daughter was growing up and he could do this to someone else,” Speegle. She says preventing the same thing from happening to someone else’s child kept her strong in her pursuit of justice. ”I spent 19 years crying and now I’m — this year is all about justice.”
Reports show that Jason Draper forced Erica into a tub of scalding water and held her there for several minutes. He then denied medical attention for several hours until she started going into toxic shock.
According to the same report, friends also saw Draper beat Erica, and force her to eat food contaminated with feces, insects and household cleaners — laughing as he tormented her.
Jason Draper could be sentenced to life in prison but according to law he first has to go before a juvenile justice judge and be “certified” as an adult since this happened when he was 15. This case most likely could have been solved 20 years ago if witnesses back then would have come forward on Erica Shoup’s behalf.
I wonder if Jason has abused anyone else in his 20 years of freedom?
This is a case I plan to follow closely; I believe a lot more details will eventually come out. I also think Erica was burnt long before 911 was called. She went into toxic shock which means she had an infection. There had to have been time between Jason scalding her in the tub and her burns becoming infected. I think more people than just Jason knew what happened and that’s why up and moved back to Ohio after Erica passed away and then refused to answer any questions.
I had just posted the following report this week and while I was researching to write about Erica’s case, this report was brought up in one of the (recent) articles about her. Even back in 1991 the media and viewers are more interested in Erica having a “weird” medical condition than they would have been if she was just an abused little girl.
The National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths just reported:
According to the group, in 2010 alone, news outlets have produced thousands more stories on killer flu, food-borne illness, car malfunctions and other “scare” topics than on child abuse, which results in far more deaths.
“American news media turns a blind eye to child abuse deaths while lavishing extensive coverage on deaths that occur less often. This … media ‘blackout’ on child abuse deaths creates a climate in which needed reforms are unable to move forward.”
Jason has managed to stay out of trouble since he murdered his step-sister Erica. A look at his past record shows that the only problems he’s ever had was expired tag’s and a failure to appear back in July of 2004.
Jason Draper’s Public Record: His current status with Franklin County is Fugitive from justice.
Author: M. Stone, Unforgotten Angels