Details emerge: Mom charged after toddler daughter dies from drug found in sippy cup
An East Hills woman charged with homicide after the narcotic fentanyl was found in her 17-month-old daughter’s pink sippy cup told investigators she had “no clue” how the drug ended up in the beverage, according to court documents.
Jhenea Pratt, 23, of East Hills Drive, was charged Friday with criminal homicide and endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the death of her daughter, Charlette Napper-Talley.
Pittsburgh police who responded to a 911 call from Pratt shortly after 6 p.m. on April 5 said the toddler was not breathing, her lips were blue and skin was cold to the touch when they arrived at the home.
The officers performed CPR until paramedics arrived and transported the girl to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where she was pronounced dead, according to a criminal complaint filed in support of the charges.
An autopsy, which included three separate blood screenings, found a lethal amount of fentanyl in Napper-Talley’s blood, according to court records.
Investigators learned that on the day the toddler died, Pratt’s boyfriend, Albert Williams, was watching the child while she was attending a class at the CCAC Homewood Campus.
Williams told police that at around noon he fed the girl and used the sippy cup to give her a soft drink that was in the refrigerator.
Williams said he picked Pratt up from school, made several stops and then left her and the child at the East Hills Drive home sometime around 2 p.m., according to police.
When investigators asked Pratt if she had placed anything in her daughter’s cup after Williams left, she responded “not to my knowledge, no.”
She told investigators that she found the sippy cup in the house and gave it to her daughter when she put her to bed.
Pratt said she did not know if the liquid in the cup was the same drink Williams had poured but that it was red and “the same color as the happy drink that was in the fridge.”
When investigators asked Pratt to venture a guess about how the fentanyl ended up in the cup she responded: “maybe the huggies (soft drink), because they tasted funny to her.”
The officers who responded to the 911 call and detectives who processed the scene reported smelling a strong odor of marijuana in the home. Williams said he gave Pratt some marijuana on the day of the incident.
But Williams and Pratt both denied using, transporting or storing heroin or fentanyl.
Investigators determined that if the fentanyl was in the drink when Williams gave it to the child at around noon, the girl would have died “very shortly after ingesting it,” according to the criminal complaint.
Police say Pratt was the only person caring for Napper-Talley during the hours leading up to her death.
Pratt is in the Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh awaiting a Sept. 5 preliminary hearing before county Judge Jeffrey Manning.
Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368 or [email protected] or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.