An 11-month-old baby has died of a heroin overdose, and his mother has been charged with second-degree murder - the second death this year in Baltimore of a baby who ingested the narcotic.
Darius Key was found not breathing Sept. 8 at his home in the 200 block of S. Gilmor St. This week, the state medical examiner ruled his death a homicide by "narcotic intoxication," Baltimore police said.
Yesterday morning, police charged the boy's mother, Georgianna Key, 23, in the death.
In June, a 9-month-old boy died of a heroin overdose in West Baltimore and detectives charged his great-aunt and her boyfriend with second-degree murder after the medical examiner ruled the death a homicide. Both of those defendants are being held without bail, as is Georgianna Key.
News of Darius' death yesterday alarmed city health officials, who called it a "tragedy" and said it shows that more drug treatment slots are needed to help parents combat one of Baltimore's worst problems. An estimated one in six city residents is addicted to drugs.
"It's another consequence of illegal drug use," said Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, the city health commissioner.
City officials said they have slightly more than 7,500 drug treatment slots and hope to have 8,500 by July next year.
Police said that Darius was sleeping about noon on his mother's couch when she found him not breathing. She then rushed out of the red-brick rowhouse with Darius in her arms looking for help from neighbors, police said.
The boy was taken by ambulance to University of Maryland Medical Center, where he died a few hours later, police said. Police found healed burn injuries to the boy's buttocks but observed no visible signs of "new" trauma, officials said in court papers charging Key with the death.
The mother told detectives that she had slept the night before with Darius in her bed, police said. She woke up about 9:30 a.m. and gave Darius about 3 ounces of milk and some tuna fish, police said.
The mother's two other children, a 7-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter, also ate tuna fish for breakfast, police said. Key then put Darius back on her bed, where he fell asleep about 10 a.m., police said. About noon, police said, she took Darius downstairs and put him on the couch to take another nap.
He fell asleep, and she went upstairs to "run a bath," police said. About an hour later, Key went back downstairs and found Darius "limp and not breathing," police said.
Key told detectives that she was the only one home at the time except for her children, police said. On Tuesday, the medical examiner ruled the death a homicide and said that a toxicology report revealed that 1,300 micrograms per liter of free morphine (heroin) was found in the boy's system.
The average adult heroin overdose in Baltimore is between 100 to 300 micrograms per liter, police said.
Police did not say in court papers how the boy ingested the heroin. His mother was arrested late Tuesday. Child protective services took custody of the other children. It was not known if they were turned over to relatives or placed in foster care.
Darius appears to have been the second-youngest overdose death of the year in Baltimore. More than 180 people have died this year from overdose deaths. Last year, 317 people died - 56 more than were slain.
Kaliq Holley was 9 months old when he died in June after ingesting a heroin capsule, police said. Charged with second-degree murder in that case are Joyce C. Miller, 39, and Rudolph Asberry, 41.
Second-degree murder carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.