(Part 1 shows child justice failures in Court. Part 2 of this series is about neglected children who died in fires. Part 3 covers children who die in hot cars and in drownings. Part 4 explains parents who are addicted or psychotic from marijuana. Part 5 shows how children die through violence related to pot. Part 6 presents a solution. Read a previous article,Three Children Die in Colorado.)
Yesterday afternoon in the Bronx, a 27-year-old mom threw her six-month-old baby girl out a sixth floor window. Onlookers tried to stop her, but Tenisha Fearon was screaming ‘we’re all going to die’ as she dangled the baby and told cops the ‘devil is in her.’ She was having a psychotic break, but Tenisha was generally known as a loving mother. A Facebook photo holds a clue as to why she snapped — the marijuana leaf on her hat. Only a marijuana user — most likely a heavy user — would advertise the pot leaf on their clothing. Pot advocates argue that marijuana doesn’t cause psychosis, but we find too much evidence it does. A woman who killed her 17-year-old son in Oregon on September 24 used pot several times a day and was paranoid.
Marijuana and Violent Acts
Two of the mothers who killed their children in Part 4 were psychotic (and addicted). They were hallucinating. Many other babies and children died because of violent actions. Their parents or caregivers used pot, but it’s not known if they were psychotic.
Baby Ember Graham went missing on July 2 in Shasta Lake, California. The father Matthew Graham, marijuana user and carjacker, was killed in a police shootout, but he had been the only suspect. This region, Shasta County, is known for its drug violence. Shane Miller, a marijuana grower, allegedly killed his wife and daughters Shelby and Shasta in 2013. He was found dead in 2014.
Marijuana users can be brutish and they let the kids suffer. A man in Oregon forced a 5-year-old girl to smoke pot after brutally beating her. In Utah last year, Richard Marsh put his son on a leash and dragged him over a curb, through landscaping and then tied him to a tree. He and a friend then smoked weed, but onlookers called police and he was arrested.
Jessica Callaway, an Arizona mother, blew marijuana into her 9-month-year-old daughter’s mouth, trying to get her to calm down. She became impatient and slapped her. Callaway’s roommate made a cellphone video and called authorities. Fortunately neither Marsh’s son nor Callaway’s daughter died. However, both examples give rise to the question: can pot users can be good parents?
In Michigan, the parents of tiny Jace Colby smoked marijuana the night he died of a fractured skull. At first the 22-year-old father claimed he didn’t know what had happened. Later he admitted to hitting the boy a lot when he wouldn’t stop crying. The father was charged with manslaughter, child abuse and will be in jail for years.
Moms, Too, Can Be Very Violent
Mothers also can be violent, particularly when there is addiction. In Kansas City, last March, Donneisha Lee killed her 1-year-old daughter, Demyla, when she was drunk and stoned. Friends said she was a daily marijuana user. The mom admitted to smoking 5-6 joints a day.
Gabriela Guerrera, and Natalye Price, daughters of Daphne McDaniels, were also victims of their mom’s physical abuse. She was a heavy marijuana user. Her boyfriend hid her bongs and marijuana paraphernalia, which were found in a dumpster in Quitman, Texas. McDaniels appears to have deliberately killed her daughters.
However, Americans still haven’t made the connection between marijuana usage and violence. Outside of the law enforcement, education and mental health communities, the public has remained in the dark about the way pot rewires the young brain. When are we going to get over the denial, the denial that marijuana causes a great deal of mental imbalance and morally abhorrent behavior?
Victims of Violent Boyfriends
Kamari Taylor died because of his mom’s violent boyfriend. The boyfriend battered Kamari, then abandoned him to go out and sell pot. Since that time, marijuana has become legal in DC, and number of murders in 2015 is more than for all of 2014.
Joshua Blow, boyfriend of two-year old Aidan Haskins’ mother, was accused of second degree murder of the boy. He told police that the boy fell down the stairs while he was carrying him downstairs to the basement to fetch his marijuana pipe to take it to work. However, the boy’s injuries were consistent with deliberate abuse. It happened in Vermont. (Two of the deaths mentioned in our series take place in tiny Vermont, a state that has some of the highest youth marijuana usage. Gov. Shumlin and Sen. Sanders should take notice.)
Paxton Stokes’ death is a little more mysterious, but it was probably the mother’s marijuana-using boyfriend who abused him. In Oregon, the estate of Coltin Salsbury is suing the state’s child welfare services for not seeing that Wendy Salsbury and the violent boyfriend posed an immediate harm to the boy. Again we need to recognize that women who are early, frequent users of marijuana are 2x more likely to have violent partners.
Odd Deaths or Deliberate Deaths
In June, Matthew Ogden and Phyllis Wyatt of Colorado were accused of killing their 4-week old infant, Sarah Ogden. The baby had tested positive for THC at birth. The couple from Parachute, Colorado, had been on the run and were arrested in Minnesota.
Quentin Evans was violent with his 6-week-old daughter, Kaidence Evans who died in January, 2014. Photos from the dad’s cell phone showed him smoking something and the father tested positive for THC upon arraignment. One wonders why heavy marijuana users are allowed overnight visitation, especially for children so young.
A father in South Dakota, Michael Schumm, faces charges of child abuse and neglect for the death of his baby, an infant named Kayleigh. When police entered his apartment on August 6, they found he was in possession of 59 grams of marijuana. He claimed he smokes “dabs” and uses it daily to “relieve stress,” again consistent with addiction. The baby showed signs of blunt trauma.
At first it was thought that 3-year old Andrew Prior died from a fall on the couch in which he hit his head. Child welfare services had previously visited the foster parents, Mallory and Peter Krajian, and reported the smell of marijuana in the home. The mother denied using marijuana, but was told follow-up visits would be unannounced. By the time of the trial and investigation, the death was shown to have been caused by more serious injuries. This case highlights the difficulty of finding good placement for foster children. The task of caseworkers is nearly impossible. Public servants are always blamed, but public policy which legitimizes marijuana makes their jobs impossible.
Only two of the 43 deaths we’re profiling in this series involve foster children. Two children died because of neglect by babysitters. Four of the little ones were killed by mothers’ boyfriends. (Pot-using moms appear to lose their protective instincts as they detach from feeling and/or have too many other problems to break up with the men who are bad and violent.) All but one of the victims mentioned died after the successful ballots to legalize marijuana in 2012.* Pot users like to portray themselves as mellow. How ironic.
The simplest way to cut down child abuse/neglect is to stop legalizing marijuana, legitimize its use and call it “harmless.” These stories make us question the possibility of “responsible use of marijuana.” Read Part 6 for ideas for a solution.
(Editor’s note: See our fact sheet on the 53 children who have died since November 2012 because of parents’ or caretakers’ pot use. News of nine more deaths involving marijuana use have surfaced since we wrote our articles: a two-year-old in Indiana beaten by the mom’s pot-using boyfriend, a two-year old in Cincinnati who had been beaten most of her life, a bathtub drowning in Maine, a baby shot in the head, and an infant in Denver, Natalee Skinner-Hurst. In the last case, the caseworker has been accused of false reporting. The mother was a long-time marijuana user. Four more children died in a fire in Missouri.)
*Sadie Gates drowned in the care of her babysitter in 2010. It’s significant because the babysitter allowed her own child to die in the swimming pool 4 years later. She still had marijuana addiction after serving some time in jail.