Two New York, parents Charles and Jennifer Burks, ages 45 and 40 respectively, were picked up by law enforcement on Thursday. This comes after a conclusive investigation in the May 7 death of their 5-year-old son, who died because they gave him a prescription painkiller, Oxycontin. CBS News is reporting that the couple was taken to jail on felony counts of second-degree manslaughter.
Court papers filed on Thursday allege that Endicott couple Charles and Jennifer Burks recklessly caused the death of their son. District Attorney Steve Cornwell, speaking to reporters, said the death was synonymous with a homicide, adding that investigations had been “very long” and “very thorough” before the parents of the deceased were arrested by law enforcement officers.
According to Cornwell, the Burks claimed to have discovered their 5-year-old son dead. However, when an autopsy was performed, the cause of death was established to be a drug overdose.
When arrest warrants were issued for the couple, they had left their Endicott residence and traveled to North Carolina, where they had been staying at a campsite. Coordinated efforts with New York and North Carolina police departments led to their apprehension.
The district attorney was elusive with specifics about the case, declining to comment on whether the killer couple had a motive for giving their son the deadly drug. Oxycontin is a painkiller that is often abused by drug addicts. It can be snorted or mixed with water and injected into a vein.
Charles Burks and Jennifer Burks appeared in an Endicott courtroom with different lawyers. Jennifer was represented by public defender Jay Wilber, while lawyer Chris Brown legally stood in for Charles. Both defense attorneys said their clients were not guilty.
The second-degree manslaughter charges slapped on the Burks carry a possible penalty of 15 years in a state prison. Cornwell revealed that the couple was deemed “innocent until proven guilty,” optimistically adding that the case would be presented to a grand jury on Wednesday and the manslaughter charge proven in a court of law.
This is not the first time that a parent would be killing a child with an Oxycontin overdose. In Kentucky, Douglas Allen was charged for the death of his son after a toxicology report revealed extreme levels of Oxycontin in his system. The boy’s mother was also charged with transfer of a controlled substance and criminal abuse.
In Pennsylvania, Oxycontin was found in the blood system of 2-year-old boy Sebastian Wallace. An autopsy revealed that it was three times above the amount that could kill an adult. The boy’s father, Coco Wallace, was arrested by police. Despite his denials of not having the deadly and addictive pills in his possession, a female companion said he had thrown away $1,000 worth of illegal Oxycontin as soon as Sebastian died.
Toxicology tests said the boy needed to have swallowed as many as six pills to reach the lethal level of toxicity. Coco Wallace was slapped with child endangerment, criminal homicide, and a slew of other charges.
Oxycontin is used by people who are experiencing extreme pain, and it works like morphine, facilitating positive feelings and rewarding sensations in users. This is the reason why it is addictive and has a potential for long-term abuse.
Doctors are worried that such a deadly drug has the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for children as young as 11. Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton had referred to the agency’s action as “absolutely incomprehensible.”
However, Dr. Katheleen Neville, who treats children who suffer from sickle cell anemia, said it was crucial to help kids with the pain brought upon them by their sicknesses.
“Just because Oxycontin has been abused or prescribed inappropriately does not mean we should deprive the children who need the drug. As for people who say no child should ever be prescribed Oxycontin, come be one of my kids whose pelvis gets eaten out by cancer.”
[Photo by Toby Talbot/AP Images]