The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

July 19, 2012

Granby woman facing charge after toddler dies from ingesting methadone pill

GRANBY, Mo. — A Granby woman is facing a murder charge in the overdose death of her toddler son who is believed to have ingested a methadone pill that she dropped in church.

Newton County sheriff’s deputies took Elizabeth A. Farnam, 33, into custody Thursday afternoon on suspicion of having caused the death last month of her 22-month-old son, Logan Crow.

Emergency responders called to the family’s home the morning of June 25 found the child deceased. Farnam and the boy’s father, Heithcliff Crow, 32, told Granby police and sheriff’s investigators that they put the child down for a nap about 4 p.m. the previous day and had not checked on him until about 10 a.m. that morning.

Sheriff Ken Copeland said an autopsy performed in Springfield on June 27 could not determine the cause of death without toxicology testing.

“The pathologist said the death would be consistent with aspiration — he thought possibly he may have choked on some milk he was drinking — or an overdose,” Copeland said.

The sheriff said that when toxicology test results came back, the cause of death became more clear: an overdose of methadone. Methadone is a prescription narcotic most often used to treat addictions to other narcotics.

A probable-cause affidavit filed in Newton County Circuit Court to support a charge of second-degree murder against the mother states that tests showed 15 to 19 milligrams of the drug in the boy’s system.

Sheriff’s Detective Mike Barnett wrote in the affidavit that Farnam admitted that she takes methadone without a prescription. She further admitted that she had obtained the drug from someone in Neosho whom she declined to identify.

Barnett also interviewed two other family members. One said he’d seen Farnam drop a pill while they were in church on June 24 with Logan sitting on her lap. She looked for the pill and could not find it, even with the help of a woman who was sitting behind them, the detective said he was told.

Later, the family was on the way home, and Logan began sweating profusely, the family member said, according to the affidavit. He helped get Logan out of the car and into the house, but the toddler was falling asleep on his feet in the living room before his parents put him down for the nap, according to the affidavit.

Prosecutor Jake Skouby said the mother was charged under the felony murder rule in Missouri.

“She drops the pill, the (boy) picks it up, eats it and overdoses because of it,” Skouby said of the theory of the crime.

The underlying felony is the mother’s alleged illegal possession of the methadone, he said.

“Had she not been committing that crime, then the child would not have got hold of the methadone,” Skouby said.

Dr. Keith Norton, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, told investigators the drug would have taken 30 minutes to two hours to get into the child’s system following ingestion. That means he would have swallowed the pill at least that amount of time before he would have died.

The affidavit does not offer an estimated time of the child’s death. Skouby said he had not seen any range for time of death in reports received from investigators other than the 18-hour period in which the parents acknowledged not having checked on the child.

 

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