Noah Tomlin, the toddler from Buckroe Beach who went missing in June and later found dead, touched the hearts of people across the country.
In the days following his disappearance, area law enforcement agencies searched the home where the 2-year-old lived, the nearby waters, land and even stopped trash collection at two landfills.
Investigators and search teams spent 10,000 man hours looking for Noah and sifted through 2 million pounds of garbage, according to Hampton Police Chief Terry Sult.
On July 3, police found his body at the steam plant.
Jessica Brackett, who lives in Camden, North Carolina, read about the case and decided to start a petition on We the People.
She said it’s an effort to prevent similar cases from happening to other children.
“It makes me mad,” adding Noah’s mother, Julia Tomlin “had multiple chances with child protective services and other children taken away from her.”
Julia Tomlin is charged with three counts of child neglect involving three of her children, including Noah.
Previously, she was charged with one count of child neglect in 2010, according to Newport News Circuit Court records. She was sentenced to five months in jail with a year of probation.
Brackett said she became emotionally attached to Noah’s case and has family who work in the foster care system.
When Hampton Police announced they found Noah’s body, she broke down and wept.
While the petition has 14 proposed solutions to the growing epidemic, Brackett has a couple of solutions she’d like to see happen.
“I think the ‘family first’ policy needs to be changed,” Brackett said. For example, if a parent deals drug in front of a child, that parent would lose custody as opposed to having the child remain in the home while the parent takes rehab classes.
In addition, she wants lawmakers to establish a clear definition of child abuse and child neglect as well as more training and education for family court judges.
“Any change at this point is better than what they are doing now,” she said.
Britney Hartman, who lives in Denver, Colorado saw Brackett’s petition on Facebook and decided to reach out to her since Hartman had experience with petitions for other causes.
She advised Brackett to switch the petition to a different platform, Change.org, add more cases to the petition and address the president, members of Congress and social workers.
“She’s done the majority of the work,” Hartman said. “She had added one case per state.”
So why was Hartman in the Noah Tomlin Facebook group in the first place?
“My 2-year old niece was actually murdered by her parents,” Hartman said. “It was the first child case I followed since 2018.”
Hartman’s niece, Gabriella LaMorie’s story was similar to Noah’s because each child had other siblings who were “fine” but the toddlers themselves were not.
While Hartman does not think any of the laws proposed in the petition would have helped or prevented her niece’s death, she feels child abuse is an everyday occurrence and it is a big problem.
“These kids don’t have a voice and they can’t fix it themselves,” Hartman said. “We have to be the people to do it.”
Hartman wants child protective services employees to receive more training to prevent children from being placed back in their abusive homes. She also wants to establish a nationwide child abuser registry, similar to the sex offender registry.
So far, 2,564 have signed the Stop Putting Children Back in Unsafe Homes No Other Angels Hurt petition.
There’s been no update on Noah’s case. WYDaily submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Norfolk regarding the preliminary results of Noah’s autopsy.
“The release of information you requested is prohibited by law of there is specific FOIA exemption in this manner,” the FOIA request noted.
Previously in an email with WYDaily, Donna Price, district administrator and business manager at the medical examiner’s office, said the cause and manner of death was pending.
“There are no new updates at this time in regards to the Noah Tomlin case,” Hampton Police spokeswoman Cpl. Ashley Jenrette wrote in an email.