A Baltimore woman received a 40-year prison sentence Monday in the death of her 1-year-old grandson and abuse of her granddaughter after a judge said she rubbed methadone onto the children's gums before she put them to bed and headed off to a party.
Towanda Reaves, 51, took responsibility for the boy's death but said she never meant to kill him.
"This is not the intentional killing of her grandson, but those who think this was some form of tragic accident misunderstand the case, and misunderstand the jury's analysis of it," said Baltimore Circuit Judge Timothy Doory. "This is murder."
In the early hours of July 5, 2013, police and paramedics arrived at Reaves' Franklintown apartment after receiving a call about two unresponsive children. Less than an hour later, 1-year-old Aadyn Overton was pronounced dead. Prosecutors said his sister needed multiple doses of Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of other drugs, to survive.
Both children tested positive for methadone, a painkiller often used to treat heroin addiction. The medical examiner's office concluded Aadyn died of methadone intoxication.
According to court documents, Reaves told investigators she put the children to bed about 8 p.m. and checked on them at 2 a.m. Between those times, prosecutors said, she attended a party.
Reaves told investigators that at 4 a.m., she got out of bed to turn off the air conditioning and realized Aadyn wasn't breathing. She called 911.
Prosecutors say she initially told detectives she had rubbed the drug on the children's gums, but when case went to trial in July she denied doing so. After a weeklong trial, a city jury convicted Reaves of second-degree murder, child abuse resulting in death, first-degree child abuse and two counts of second-degree child abuse.
Reaves' attorney, S. Simone Mollock argued there was "no malice" in Reaves' act and urged the judge to be lenient. She said she lived for her grandchildren, kept a spotless home and routinely woke up at 5 a.m. to ride a bus and take a grandson to school every day.
Reaves also spoke directly to the judge, saying she was "very much" responsible for her grandson's death.
"I'm not very good at speaking, but the kids know that I never meant to hurt the children," she said.
Two members of the Overton family also spoke on Reaves' behalf, saying they believed what happened was an accident.
Doory, however, cited the shifting stories Reaves told homicide detectives and pretrial investigators about how the children were poisoned.
Mollock provided the judge and prosecutors with a Baltimore Sun column from nine years ago detailing Reaves' efforts to get clean, but Doory countered that his case file showed she was living off public assistance and family support while also working as a prostitute.
He also said the night of the incident, she seemed more interested in attending a party than tending to the children's welfare.
"She did such a thing because that day, she was interested in the party and didn't want to be bothered," Doory said.
Reaves received 30 years for second-degree murder and 30 years for child abuse resulting in death, to be served concurrently. She received 10 years for child abuse in the case of Aadyn's sister.