The December death of an infant has now been classified as suspicious by the Stanislaus County Coroner’s Office and is on the cusp of becoming listed as the third homicide for Oakdale in 2012.
According to the Oakdale Police Department, toxicology reports came back on Thursday, Jan. 17 showing “excessive levels of methamphetamine” in the system of the 44-day-old female infant. The department is now coordinating with the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office on proceeding forward with the investigation.
Police are looking into the possibility of the methamphetamine being ingested by the infant from breast feeding.
According to Oakdale Police Sergeant Joe Johnson, the mother missed a scheduled interview date and has since moved from the residence.
“We’re trying to get the interview rescheduled,” said Johnson. “She’s been evasive.”
On Dec. 11, 2012, emergency crews were summoned to the 100 block of Obsidian Drive for medical assistance on a report of an unresponsive baby. Prior to the arrival of police units, ambulance personnel transported the infant to Oak Valley Hospital where it was later pronounced deceased.
The initial investigation by the police showed no signs of foul play, injuries to the child, or the cause of death. The mother of the child stated she was asleep and woke up and found the child not breathing.
The call to 911 operators came in at 5:39 p.m.
“There were no signs at the scene other than it was SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) or an accident in some way,” said Oakdale Police Detective Max Messina. “The parents were upset and nothing in the house looked suspicious.”
Officers interviewed the woman and her husband on the day of the death. They stated the child was taken to the doctor earlier in the day for bleeding from its mouth. According to the police report, the husband said the doctor that checked the baby thought the bleeding was from a small cut in its mouth, possible from an eye-dropper used to give medicine.
“The child had no follow-up post-natal care, so we don’t know if there were medical conditions,” said Johnson.
In the initial police report, the investigating officer stated that he recognized the child’s mother, age 31, from prior police contacts. Johnson declined to confirm if the prior contacts were for drug-related offenses.
Dr. Krystyna Belski, a local pediatrician, stated that methamphetamine can easily be contained in breast milk if the mother is using the drug. The breast tissue takes the methamphetamine from the mother’s bloodstream and actively moves it into the milk.
According to experts, methamphetamine is considered active nine to 12 hours in the bloodstream. It can remain detectable in the saliva for as long as three days and in the urine for up to five days. Infants are much more sensitive to low levels of methamphetamine than adults are and breast milk tends to concentrate the drug.
Nationwide, there have been dozens of cases of infant deaths associated with overdoses of cocaine, methamphetamine and other illegal substances via breast milk. Adverse effects are also possible in cases where prescribed doses of legal drugs, such as painkillers, are taken by the mother while breastfeeding.
“We always remind the mother that any drugs they may be taking or using can be passed along to the baby,” said Belski. “In the case of methamphetamine abuse, we would notify child protective services.”
Johnson said the mother’s husband was not the biological father of the baby. Two other juvenile girls live with the couple at the residence, but are the husband’s biological children. Police stated they contacted Child Protective Services, however, the children were not taken into protective custody.
In recent months Oakdale police investigators have had their hands full with major crimes investigating a double homicide in November, two persons shot at a party on Dec. 16, the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl on Dec. 27, an attempted murder on Jan. 27, and a multi-agency response due to gunshots fired at police officers just last week.
Arrests were made in all those cases.