A five-month-old baby starved to death in its cot - up to four days after her parents perished from drug overdoses.
Jason Chambers, 27, and Chelsea Cardaro, died of fentanyl overdoses on or around December 15, a coroner’s office said this week. Their daughter, Summer Chambers, died of dehydration and starvation three to four days later.
The Cambria County coroner’s office in Pennsylvania said a neighbour found all the bodies on December 22.
Coroner Jeff Lees called the case “heart-wrenching”, and ruled the infant’s death homicide due to parental neglect.
He said that autopsy and toxicology reports confirmed that Summer died of in the family home in Kernville, about 60 miles east of Pittsburgh, a few days before Christmas. Her parents succumbed to fentanyl overdoses.
Drug levels in Ms Cardaro’s body were four times the lethal range, Mr Kees told reporters. The levels in Mr Chamber’s body were two-and-a-half times times above.
Authorities had responded to another of Mr Chamber’s overdoses just one month before, NBC reported.
Fentanyl is a potent prescription narcotic, usually prescribed to treat severe pain. Recreational usage spiked in 2015 when drug users began combining it with heroin. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a nationwide alert on the substance that year, after a surge in overdose deaths.
Pennsylvania has been especially hard-hit by overdose deaths in recent years, according to the Centres for Disease Control. Mr Lees said this week that 94 people in Cambria County had died of drug overdoses in 2016. Sixteen more died in the first month of 2017.
Johnstown Police Chief Jeff Janciaga said he hoped this case would be a warning to other opioid users.
“I’m hopeful for the future,” Mr Janciaga said at a press conference. “Hopeful that this child didn’t die in vain. Hopeful that we can learn something from this as a community. Hopeful that opiate-dependent persons can realize, before it's too late, that they need help - if for nothing else, for the sake of their children’s well-being.”
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