Stepfather of Drowned Christopher Marks Charged With Endangering Children
St. Louis County Police said stepfather to 12-year-old Christopher Marks, Todd Combs, provided alcohol to the boy before his drowning death near Eureka, as well as to six other children. Child endangerment charges are "not enough," says great aunt.
Todd Combs, 42, of the 7800 block of LaBelle Street in Affton, was charged Wednesday for providing alcohol to his 12-year-old stepson before the boy's drowning death in the Meramec River. He also is charged with providing alcohol to six other minors during an Aug. 5 outing at Pacific Palisades Conservation Area near Eureka.
Marks' great aunt, Donna Sherman, tells Patch that "a slap on the wrist and a fine to Combs is not nearly enough." She said the family is left with so many questions, particularly why Combs is still allowed to knowingly drive when his license was suspended. State of Missouri officials revoked the license of Combs until the year 2014.
Sherman, the person who at the accident scene found a branded lip balm she knew Marks' to have been carrying that weekend, said family members were told Combs was issued a summons for a Nov. 1 court appearance. "He was not subpoenaed or given a warrant. We were told he doesn't even have to show up himself, that his lawyer can go for him. All because the toxicology reports on Christopher were not conclusive?! Misdemeanor charges just aren't enough. Even a person who hurts an animal immediately goes to jail."
Toxicology results on Marks' body include ethanol produced during the decomposition process, so investigators won't know exactly how much alcohol the boy had in his system before he died, St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch said.
The disappearance of 12-year-old Christopher Marks touched off an intensive, 36- to 40-hour search that included diving, canine, helicopter plus search and rescue teams from the entire St. Louis region, including Eureka Fire Protection District and Eureka Police Department. He was last seen at the river about 7:30 p.m. that Sunday.
St. Louis County Police said Combs provided alcohol to seven children under the age of 17 during the outing at Pacific Palisades Conservation Area. Some children on the outing, which was supervised only by Combs, were younger than Christopher Marks.
St. Louis County prosecuting attorney charges indicate Combs “encouraged, aided and caused” the children to drink alcohol.
Combs also found Christopher’s body Aug. 7 near the Allenton boat ramp access near the dock, about six miles east from where the boy was last seen playing on a rope swing.
Combs had several other alcohol-related charges on his record:
- 1992—Pleaded guilty to DWI; received two years supervised probation, successfully completed in 1994.
- 1997—Pleaded guilty to DWI as prior offender; received a suspended imposition of sentence placed on two years supervised probation, successfully completed.
- 1999—Pleaded guilty to DWI as persistent offender; sentenced to five years in prison, received a suspended execution of sentence and placed on five years probation. His probation was revoked and he served five years in prison and was released in 2004.
- Refused breathalyzer tests during traffic stops in 1999, 2001, 2004 and 2011. Two charges were dismissed and he won judgment in 1999. In 2011, the court denied his driving privileges for denying the breathalyzer.
Fox2 on Aug. 14 reported its news team's legal request to St. Louis County Police asking for all calls to Combs’ address yielded a printout that lists 24 calls in 2011 and 2012 for items such as “peace disturbance” and “domestic.”
Sherman said they had a birthday party post-accident for Christopher's twin sister, Anna-Marie, and while they were trying to have a happy time, they realized their family will never be the same. "Christopher's gone. We had to face the fact that we can't add a 'and one to grow on' candle to the cake for him. He will always only ever be 12 years old. There will always be a piece of us missing now," she said.
Sherman said she and other family members hope and pray that the judge "looks beyond the paperwork handed to them on Nov. 1 and reads between the lines so Christopher didn't die in vain."
Editor's Note: St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch is scheduled to hold a press conference at 10:30 a.m. today (Sept. 27) on the Todd Combs' case.