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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

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.

For a complete backgrounding in this matter, click here to see the Eureka-Wildwood Patch Topics Page devoted to Christopher Marks.

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.

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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.

Elizabeth Combs September 27, 2012 at 07:02 PM
I have commented on you before Alexandria, please just stop the hurtful and false comments and accusations that you are putting on here. My Family, children, husband, friends, and my self are suffering enough without your mean and rude comments. Please just stop.
Alexandria Hamilton September 27, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Now this man is only going to get up to 7 years? If our justice system was what it should be this man should get all the years in jail that this child would have lived in life. So the expectancy is 100 and we take off 12 years - he should get 88 years not a maximum of 1 year per child for endangerment. Now, others are commenting that the family buys booze and cigarettes for the underage children? Very sad indeed! To the mother, I will comment as I wish to comment on here as it is a public blog. Since you are responding why did you let the children go with him knowing his history of alcohol abuse and that he didn't have a valid license? I am sure the public would like to know.
Candy Baker September 28, 2012 at 02:56 AM
I would love to know! Also will the mother be charged with child endagerment also? She knew Tod Combs didnt have a license yet allowed her children to get in the car with him. Abusive relationships are terrible!
steve rose October 01, 2012 at 03:43 PM
If the "step-father" had bought the boy a real nice pair of heavy boots would he be more guilty? The whole thing sounds a little deranged. I mean where was the boy's "mother". It's not like she thought the guy was an angel or anything. There is a whole lot more to this story.
Alexandria Hamilton October 01, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Seriously? Have you looked at this man's history? The fact is that the step-father was the supervising adult. He is seen buying liquor on camera and it is reported that he gave the liquor to the children. This most certainly could have been why the child wasn't able to swim to stop from drowning. As everyone knows, alcohol slows down a persons responses. To feed it to a child? Even worse! Regardless of who was there...they are both at fault. Even now, the mother defends the step father...such a sad sad sad case.

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