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Slow Going In Baby Death Investigation

POSTED February 12, 2013 4:07 p.m.

With nearly a month passing since receiving toxicology reports listing high levels of methamphetamine in a 44-day-old baby that died in December, Oakdale Police still have the case listed as an open investigation.

Police also remain tight-lipped on the status on the case.

“It’s an ongoing active investigation,” said Lieutenant Keri Redd, who declined additional comment.

No arrests have been made and no charges have been filed in the Dec. 11 incident where police were summoned to an unresponsive baby on Obsidian Drive that was later pronounced dead at Oak Valley Hospital. On Jan. 17 police received a toxicology report showing “excessive levels” of the street drug in the baby’s system, causing it to choke on its own vomit.

Police are still operating on the theory that the methamphetamine was ingested through breast milk.

Police Sergeant Joe Johnson said the department is consulting with the Stanislaus County District Attorney before proceeding further.

“The DA is waiting on a report from some experts before deciding on charges,” Johnson said.

Police previously reported that interview times were scheduled with the child’s mother, but the mother failed to show for the appointments. According to investigators, the mother still has not been contacted for an additional statement.

Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees said she received the coroner’s report of the infant on Friday, Feb. 8 and was still awaiting additional Oakdale Police supplemental reports. She said she would then review the information with a forensic pediatrician.

“I’m going to rely on my expert to determine how the methamphetamine got into the baby’s system,” said Rees. “At that time a decision will be made as to if charges and what charges will be filed.”

Messages left by The Leader to the mother and family members have not been returned. There has been no answer at the Obsidian Drive address, which now appears unoccupied.

Methamphetamine is second only to marijuana as the most widely used illegal drug, possibly because it is relatively cheap and easy to manufacture. The drug is highly addictive, experts report, causing users to crave more as soon as the end of the last dose, making it difficult to quit.

Police and a family friend have stated that the mother had methamphetamine-related arrests. According to one source, the mother has since gone through “Proposition 36” drug diversion.

Proposition 36 was passed by California voters in 2000. Proposition 36 allows eligible non-violent drug offenders to serve their time in a drug treatment program instead of in jail or prison.

Recent cases in California where the mother has used methamphetamine while breast feeding and the infant later died have resulted in murder charges against the mother.

In 2003, a mother in Southern California was convicted of second-degree murder after breast-feeding a baby with her methamphetamine-laced milk. That conviction was overturned, and the mother eventually pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

In April 2012, a Humboldt County woman accepted a plea offer and pleaded guilty to a charge of voluntary manslaughter for killing her infant son with methamphetamine-laced breast milk and was later sentenced to six years in prison. The original charge in that case was second-degree murder. Last June a Butte County woman was charged with felony child abuse and child endangerment while breast feeding while using marijuana. There was no death in that incident.

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