Pittsburgh, PA – A Pennsylvania mother accused of putting a fatal dose of fentanyl in her toddler’s sippy cup showed no emotion as she was convicted of involuntary manslaughter on Tuesday.
Seventeen-month-old Charlette Napper-Talley died on April 5, 2018, after she consumed what her mother called a “happy drink,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
The medical examiner found the presence of fentanyl in the deceased little girl’s blood, and the inside of her pink sippy cup also tested positive for the drug.
Detectives said that there was enough fentanyl in the baby’s cup to “kill two horses,” WBAL reported.
Charlette’s death was ruled as a homicide due to fentanyl poisoning, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The toddler’s mother, 23-year-old Jhenea Pratt, allegedly told police that she gave her daughter the cup and put her to bed, but denied having placed anything inside except a fruit-flavored “happy drink,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Pratt said she left her daughter’s room and smoked marijuana, then checked on the toddler about an hour later.
That’s when she discovered her baby wasn’t breathing and called 911, she claimed.
Pratt’s attorney, Brandon Herring, blamed the child’s death on her boyfriend, Albert Williams.
Williams and Pratt both denied having transported, stored, or used fentanyl or heroin, according to police.
But investigators also discovered that Williams had been having packages of fentanyl sent to his mother’s residence, Pratt’s attorney said.
Although Williams had been looking after Charlette earlier in the day, investigators said that the little girl would have succumbed to the effects of the drug far earlier if he had been the one who gave it to her.
“If Charlette had ingested fentanyl during the time frame Williams had her she would have died very shortly after ingesting it,” police said in the criminal complaint.
"[The] defense wants you to believe [Mr. Williams] has something to do with Charlette's death, but why? Why would he harm her child when he has kids of his own that he takes care of?" Allegheny County Assistant District Attorney Diana Page asked the jury.
Page said that the truth of the matter was that Pratt simply wanted to “sit back, relax and smoke marijuana."
"That baby was getting in the way of her enjoying her pastime,” the prosecutor declared.
Herring argued that Pratt might “smoke weed every now and then,” but claimed she also worked hard to take care of her baby as a single mother.
Pratt told investigators that she had no idea how fentanyl got into her daughter’s cup, and said that it must have occurred where the fruit-drink was manufactured.
During closing arguments, Page said that Charlette’s murder was not a random incident, but that the drug was added to her cup with a “specific intent to kill.”
The jury found Pratt not guilty of first- and third-degree homicide, which were possible alternatives within the general homicide offense, WBAL reported.
Pratt was convicted of endangering the welfare of her child and involuntary manslaughter, and is expected to be sentenced within the next three months.
She will remain in jail until her sentencing.