Timothy Koets' son Samuel Koets died on March 28, 2019 at 16 years old

By Naledi Ushe
January 19, 2021 06:36 PM
Samuel Koets
Samuel Koets
| Credit: Family Handout

Former Michigan professor Timothy Koets is facing up to 15 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter and child abuse in the death of his son with autism, Samuel Koets.

The former faculty member of Grand Rapids Community College, 51, was sentenced on Monday to a minimum of two years in prison and a maximum of 15 years in prison for restraining the arms of then 16-year-old Samuel who drowned in their cold pool in the family's backyard in March 2019.

Timothy was booked at Ottawa County Jail following his sentence.

"Sam had value, and the sanction will not restore Sam, but it will recognize that all humans have value, and because of the neglect you committed, a valuable human has lost his life," Ottawa County Circuit Court Judge Jon Hulsing said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press.

Timothy Alan Koets
Timothy Alan Koets

The death of Samuel was one of many instances in which the former professor left the autistic child unsupervised before he went to work.

On the day of his death, Timothy said he left Samuel on their backyard deck and woke up the child's mother Michelle Koets to let her know before leaving for work.

Michelle, however, fell back asleep from exhaustion as she worked the night shift as a registered nurse the day before her son's death.

It was Samuel's 13-year-old sister who found him in the pool chest-deep and sent a text to her father letting him know. She then called for help in the house, but Michelle did not hear.

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The 13-year-old said her father then prompted her to go check on Samuel, referring to him as a "freak."

Samuel's sister went back to find her brother had slipped underwater and then went to shake her mother awake.

The mother's attempts at resuscitation failed as he had been in the icy pool for an hour. 

Timothy and Michelle explained to authorities that Samuel was often restrained at the arms to prevent him from self-harm and harming others.

The parents also revealed their son had autism, was nonverbal and functioned at the level of a 13- to 17-month-old infant.

Paul Kraus, Ottawa County prosecuting attorney, revealed on Monday that authorities were called to the Koets residence 15 times prior to the fatal accident because the child "was unattended and had escaped from the residence."

Credit: Ottawa County Jail

In court, Timothy apologized for referring to his son as a "freak."

"The words that I used were not good," he said. "It was a way of blowing off steam, and I'm not excusing myself for that, but I would never harm or abuse Sam."

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In addition to Timothy's involuntary manslaughter and child abuse sentence, he is facing two to four years in prison for continuing to refill Samuel's Ritalin prescription after his death and taking the drugs.

He pleaded guilty to obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.

His wife Michelle previously served 21 days in jail in June 2019 for obtaining a controlled substance by false representation.