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Authorities are cracking down on parents who place their children in danger while being involved in drug use and activity. Many states have passed laws increasing penalties for drug use and possession when children are present and even drunk driving penalties are enhanced if a child is endangered.
Now a 27-year-old California woman has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for the death of her infant, who died after she breastfed him while using methamphetamine.
Maggie Jean Wortman of Loleta entered a guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter and could face more than 11 years in prison when she is sentenced in March.
Infant Killed by Meth Toxicity
Wortman’s 6-week-old son, Michael Phillip Acosta III, was not breathing when he was taken to the hospital on Nov. 21, 2010. He was pronounced dead at the hospital and a later autopsy revealed that he had died of methamphetamine toxicity.
An investigation revealed that the baby was exposed to meth through breastfeeding.
Originally, prosecutors filed murder charges against Wortman, but Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Bruce Watson dismissed the murder charge because he said no evidence had been presented to show that Wortman knew she was endangering her son’s life.
“Our initial assessment indicated that (Wortman’s) conduct warranted a murder charge, but the court disagreed, indicating that there was not sufficient evidence of malice. I accept that. However, she engaged in a lifestyle that knowingly and foresee ably exposed her child to the risk of death,” Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos said in a statement.
Getting Tough on Child Endangerment
Had Wortman not accepted the plea deal, prosecutors said they had planned to refile the murder charges.
“There was every indication that Wortman knew she was placing Michael in grave danger by exposing him to methamphetamine, yet she continued to do so,” Deputy District Attorney Ben McLaughlin said.
The case is the first time in California that anyone has been convicted for voluntary manslaughter for exposing a child to toxic levels of methamphetamine, but it not likely to be the last. The message to drug users is clear: if you endanger children in the process of maintaining your addiction, the law is coming after you.
News Source: Wortman Pleads Guilty to Voluntary Manslaughter