A five-month old infant girl died after drinking baby bottle formula laced with heroin. Authorities stepped in to find three grams of heroin and hypodermic needles in her parents’ home. While the infant’s death does not seem to be intentional, her parents were charged with manslaughter.
Ryan Barry and Ashley Cyr lived together with a four-year-old, a three-year-old, and their infant five-month old daughter. Barry stated to the authorities that he prepared the baby girl’s bottle by mixing two ounces of formula with two ounces of water. Shortly after drinking the bottle, the baby became unconscious and the couple called 911. Authorities found the infant’s grandmother performing CPR to no avail, and the infant died shortly after being brought to the hospital. Authorities attempted to discover the baby’s cause of death, and the hospital report revealed that the baby formula in the bottle contained heroin. During the investigation, Barry confessed that the infant’s mother was using drugs near the children, and had even “snorted drugs off a Dr. Seuss book.” Surely enough, authorities found evidence of drug use in the home, including needles and three grams of heroin. Barry claimed that the heroin might have gotten into the formula if “someone cleaned a syringe in the water bottle” used to prepare the infant’s drink. According to the autopsy, the infant died of opiate poisoning.
The couple was arrested, held on $200,000 cash bail, and charged with manslaughter last week. However, the little girl passed away in 2011. Accordingly, the defense is raising an interesting point: why are the authorities charging the couple now? Essentially, the defense attorney is seeking to clarify the reason why the investigation took two years despite the fact that the autopsy identification of the cause of death was timely. While this may be a petty point for the defense to try to beef up their own case, it bears mentioning because, even as a policy point, the prosecution might be charging the wrong party. Attorney Liam Scully claims that there is no evidence that his client (Ryan Barry) put the heroine into the baby’s bottle, and thus Barry should not be vilified and charged with manslaughter.
Since the couple was charged under Massachusetts State Laws, they are liable to up to twenty years in prison for manslaughter. Ashley Cyr, the infant’s mother, was also charged with a count of reckless endangerment of a child on the basis of the drug findings and Barry’s statements to the police. While not a part of the General Laws, reckless endangerment to children is defined as a person who is aware of, yet “consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk” which would result in serious bodily injury to a child. Disregard of the risk must constitute a “gross deviation from the behavior of a reasonable person in the same situation”. Here, the father testified that the mother used heroine near the children, even on their story books, so she put her infant and two toddlers in danger of ingesting heroine. Coupled with the infant’s death from opiate poisoning, the mother’s reckless endangerment will make a difficult burden for the defense to overcome. More likely than not, the couple will be unable to escape the charges, and the wife’s sentence will probably be higher in order to make a public policy point about the harrowing outcomes of drug use.