Death of 4-year-old Kali Cook, originally blamed on COVID, still a mystery after autopsy inconclusive

Galveston County health officials initially said the Bacliff girl died from COVID-19, but autopsy results just released show the cause of death as “undetermined.”

BACLIFF, Texas — When 4-year-old Kali Cook died suddenly at her Bacliff home in early September, Galveston County health officials blamed COVID-19. The story made national headlines because of her age. 

Officials later backtracked after the medical examiner’s office said they didn’t have autopsy results yet. 

On Friday, medical examiner Erin Barnhart said the autopsy is complete and  Kali’s cause of death remains “undetermined.”

“She still had COVID-19 – that’s true and correct. However, there was no evidence that her body was not able to function normally,” Barnhart said. “So, for example, she didn’t have pneumonia, there wasn’t any lung damage, there wasn’t any inflammation in the heart. So, because of that – that makes a diagnosis of a COVID-19-related death inappropriate in this case.”

Kali died in her sleep the morning of September 7 after running a fever the night before. 

Mom Karra Harwood and other family members had COVID-19, which is likely why health officials jumped the gun on the initial diagnosis. The medical examiner said Friday that Kali had a history of febrile seizures and upper respiratory infections, but neither was a contributing factor in her death. 

“She was so funny and sassy,” Kali’s mother told the Daily News in September. “She wasn’t your average little girl. She’d rather play with worms and frogs than wear bows. She was just so pretty and full of life.”

The Galveston County DA’s Office also ruled out foul play.

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