Child Endangerment Resulting in Death

A 1 year old baby girl from Provo Utah died of a heroin overdose earlier this month and it is possible that charges for child endangerment resulting in death may follow.

Infant overdose

Photo by: Janine

Photo by: Janine

1 year old Penny Cormani died January 2 after somehow ingesting a lethal amount of heroin. The mother of the baby girl found the 1 year old unresponsive and turning purple in her crib following a routine nap. Penny was rushed to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. An autopsy performed on the child found enough heroin in her system to prove fatal along with traces of another drug, codeine.

Fault of the homeowner or the parent?

Penny’s mother stated she left the baby unattended briefly in a living room of a friend’s home which they were staying in temporarily while the mother tended to some laundry. After hearing the mother’s statement and hearing the findings of the autopsy, police searched the house and discovered several pieces of paraphernalia scattered in multiple rooms of the house. Penny’s mother and father claim the contraband belonged to the homeowners while the homeowners claim the parents were at fault. Until the investigation is complete, it isn’t clear whose paraphernalia was found in the home and all adult parties living there are potential suspects as they all have histories of drug abuse. While no one is found to be directly at fault yet, it is possible that both the parents AND the homeowners could face charges for child endangerment resulting in death because the items were located in private and shared areas.

Child endangerment resulting in death

Utah Code 76-5-112.5 states regarding child endangerment: “Unless a greater penalty is otherwise provided by law, any person who knowingly or intentionally causes or permits a child ( . . . ) to be exposed to, to ingest or inhale, or to have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia ( . . . )is guilty of a felony of the third degree. “ 76-5-112.5 also states that if “a child ( . . . ) actually suffers bodily injury, substantial bodily injury, or serious bodily injury by exposure to, ingestion of, inhalation of, or contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia, [the person] is guilty of a felony of the second degree[. Regarding child endangerment resulting in death] unless the exposure, ingestion, inhalation, or contact results in the death of the child ( . . . ), in which case the person is guilty of a felony of the first degree.”

Five to Life

If either the parents or the homeowners are found guilty of child endangerment resulting in death for the demise of Penny Cormani, they could face five years to life in prison for a 1st degree felony. Even if authorities can’t tie the paraphernalia directly to any person, by allowing dangerous items to remain in plain view and reach in the home where Penny Cormani was staying, all adults could potentially be charged with child endangerment resulting in death. This lack of babyproofing or drugproofing the home could be “knowingly ( . . . ) permit[ing] a child to be exposed to ( . . . )a controlled substance.”

Know who you’re living with

Photo by: Mr. Theklan

Photo by: Mr. Theklan

Currently there is no proof that any of the adults in the home of Penny Cormani intentionally meant to harm her, however having paraphernalia laced with heroin laying around the house was dangerous. Prosecutors will likely make sure that someone ends up doing time for child endangerment resulting in death; The question is who? For those who are temporarily staying with friends or allow others to live in their home, it is critical to know what your roommates are doing and what they bring into the shared home. Anyone facing charges for a crime that a roommate was responsible for or for charges related to child endangerment should contact a criminal defense attorney. For information on receiving help to overcome drug abuse, contact the public health department in your area.