City girl, 5, dies after drinking drug Police say mother bought methadone illegally

February 10, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A 5-year-old West Baltimore girl has died after she apparently drank a cup of methadone that had been stored in her mother's refrigerator, and city police and prosecutors said they could seek criminal charges in connection with the death.

Jasmin Turner, who lived in a rowhouse in the 900 block of Bennett Place was found dead in her mother's bed Thursday morning.

Police said the girl apparently drank a cup full of the drug %J Wednesday morning, then complained of being sleepy. Methadone is a synthetic respiratory depressant used as a heroin substitute to treat addicts.

Agent Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a city police spokesman, said the mother had bought the methadone illegally on the street and knew the girl had ingested the drug, but "failed to notify any authorities and let the daughter go upstairs and sleep."

Homicide detectives have labeled the girl's death suspicious and are awaiting results from an autopsy to confirm that the child died from a methadone overdose. The case then will be turned over the state's attorney's office.

Assistant State's Attorney Timothy J. Doory said it could be a week before prosecutors make a decision on the case. "We want to find out exactly what [the mother] did," Mr. Doory said. "From there, we can sort out the legal significance."

Police identified Jasmin's mother as Jacquelyn Turner, 28. She would not discuss the incident with a reporter who visited her home yesterday afternoon.

Agent Weinhold said that Ms. Turner told investigators she had bought the methadone a week earlier and had left it in a white plastic cup in her refrigerator.

Jasmin apparently drank the methadone Wednesday, and about a.m. went upstairs to sleep on her mother's bed, police said. It wasn't until 6:45 a.m. Thursday that Ms. Turner checked on her daughter, Agent Weinhold said, and found her unresponsive. She then called police.

Dr. Peter Beilenson, the city's health commissioner, said methadone is sometimes sold illegally on the street. But he said the city's clinics work hard to ensure that patients take their doses in full view of medical staff. Sometimes, he said, if the patient is trustworthy, they will give out take-home doses.

Methadone does not make heroin users high, but makes the body think it is getting the highly addictive narcotic. People who take methadone who are not addicted to heroin could become tired and worn down or have more serious respiratory problems.

A child who takes methadone could feel "lethargic and then become unconscious," said Carol Butler, the project director for the Sinai Hospital methadone treatment program.

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