A 25-year-old Idaho woman, Heather Dawn Elam, has been charged with willingly administering a lethal dose of methamphetamine that killed her daughter in January 2015, East Idaho News is reporting.
Elam, currently held in Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center on a felony drug possession charge, was said to have given her 6-month-old baby, Serenity Gail Elmore, an illegal fatal drug overdose “with premeditation and malice aforethought to kill and murder” by Lemhi County Prosecutor Bruce Withers, on Monday.
On January 14, 2015, Elam called 911 to report Serenity unresponsive. According to Matt Wall, an Idaho State Police detective, first responders to the Salmon residence performed resuscitation on the child, whose pupils were already “fixed and dilated.”
NEW DIFFICULT DETAILS on the death of 6-month-old Serenity Gail Elmore. Court documents show a bottle of Dimetapp a… https://t.co/MNYNbjLbd8
— Drug Enforcement Cop (@dopecop) February 24, 2016
When Serenity arrived at the hospital, she did not have a heartbeat. Elam had told hospital staff that she put down the baby to nap at 11 a.m. But medical personnel were not convinced, according to Dr. Hans Rudd of Steele Memorial Hospital.
“Apparently the child had not been breathing and was unconscious for a long time.”
Autopsies are compulsory for infants who die in Lemhi County. Serenity was found to have a fatal dose of methamphetamine in her stomach, blood, and urine, an amount consistent with oral ingestion. Further investigations revealed trace amounts of meth in a bottle of Dimetapp – a cold and allergy medication for children – as well as a baby feeding bottle.
Forensic toxicologists established that the meth was given approximately three to four hours prior to the child’s death. Based on statements acquired from Elam and her roommate, Rob Parker, it was determined that she was the only person available to give meth to Serenity, because she was alone with her between 9 a.m. and noon at the time of her death.
A witness came forward and corroborated the story, telling police that Elam was in possession of methamphetamine 24 hours earlier.
Elam is expected to be arraigned before the 7th Judicial District Magistrate, Judge Stephen J. Clark, this week.
Serenity Gail Elmore is, unfortunately, not the first small child to die at the hands of parents who gave them fatal amounts of drugs.
As the Huffington Post reported in 2014, Stephanie Greene, a South Carolina woman, was sentenced to 20 years for killing her 6-week-old baby. The baby, Alexis, was found to have died of respiratory failure. Tests would later reveal toxic levels of Klonopin and morphine in her blood from breastfeeding.
Prosecutors said Greene, a former nurse, was well aware of the dangers of using painkillers during breastfeeding and hid her pregnancy from doctors who were providing her narcotics for injuries sustained from a 1998 car wreck. When the pregnancy became noticeable, Greene missed her appointments, sending her husband to pick up the prescriptions instead.
In 2010, Greene called the emergency hotline to report Alexis was unconscious. The audio recordings showed she was unfocused and groggy, struggling to administer CPR compressions because she could not count properly. Investigators who later arrived at the scene observed that painkiller patches and scores of pill bottles littered the bedroom well within the reach of her four-year-old son.
Greene’s lawyer, Rauch Wise, said prosecutors failed to prove how baby Alexis got the morphine and there was minimal scientific evidence to suggest morphine in breast milk could actually kill an infant.
“The court can’t punish her any more than she already has been by losing a child,” the defense lawyer said.
Greene’s conviction was the first time in the United States that a woman had been jailed for killing her child through narcotics transmitted through breast milk.
According to the criminal complaint, prosecutors will not seek the death penalty against the Idaho mom who gave her daughter a fatal dose of meth. Elam faces 10 years to life if convicted.
[Image via Lemhi County Sheriff’s Office/East Idaho News]