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Parents held on high bail on charges in Penacook infant’s overdose death 

  • Appearing via a live video feed, Bradford Ross, 25, is arraigned in district court in Concord on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Ross and Kayla Austin each face felony charges of negligent homicide, manslaughter and prohibited conduct in connection with the death of their infant son in Penacook in August 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Appearing via a live video feed, Kayla Austin, 21, is arraigned in district court in Concord on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Austin and Bradford Ross each face felony charges of negligent homicide, manslaughter and prohibited conduct in connection with the death of their infant son in Penacook in August 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Appearing via a live video feed, Kayla Austin, 21, is arraigned in district court in Concord on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Austin and Bradford Ross each face felony charges of negligent homicide, manslaughter and prohibited conduct in connection with the death of their infant son in Penacook in August 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Appearing via live video feed, Bradford Ross is arraigned in district court in Concord on Wednesday. Ross and Kayla Austin each face felony charges of negligent homicide, manslaughter and prohibited conduct in connection with the death of their infant son in August 2016. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Appearing via a live video feed, Kayla Austin, 21, is arraigned in district court in Concord on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Austin and Bradford Ross each face felony charges of negligent homicide, manslaughter and prohibited conduct in connection with the death of their infant son in Penacook in August 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Appearing via a live video feed, Bradford Ross, 25, is arraigned in district court in Concord on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Ross and Kayla Austin each face felony charges of negligent homicide, manslaughter and prohibited conduct in connection with the death of their infant son in Penacook in August 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Appearing via a live video feed, Kayla Austin, 21, is arraigned in district court in Concord on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Austin and Bradford Ross each face felony charges of negligent homicide, manslaughter and prohibited conduct in connection with the death of their infant son in Penacook in August 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Appearing via a live video feed, Bradford Ross, 25, is arraigned in district court in Concord on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Ross and Kayla Austin each face felony charges of negligent homicide, manslaughter and prohibited conduct in connection with the death of their infant son in Penacook in August 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Appearing via a live video feed, Bradford Ross, 25, is arraigned in district court in Concord on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Ross and Kayla Austin each face felony charges of negligent homicide, manslaughter and prohibited conduct in connection with the death of their infant son in Penacook in August 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Appearing via a live video feed, Bradford Ross, 25, is arraigned in district court in Concord on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Ross and Kayla Austin each face felony charges of negligent homicide, manslaughter and prohibited conduct in connection with the death of their infant son in Penacook in August 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Appearing via a live video feed, Bradford Ross, 25, is arraigned in district court in Concord on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Ross and Kayla Austin each face felony charges of negligent homicide, manslaughter and prohibited conduct in connection with the death of their infant son in Penacook in August 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)



Monitor staff
Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Toxicology tests revealed that an infant boy found unresponsive in a travel camper in Penacook last summer had methamphetamine in his blood and liver.

The final autopsy results are part of a detailed affidavit released Wednesday following the separate arraignments of the child’s mother and father in Concord’s district court. The parents, Bradford Ross and Kayla Austin, face charges of negligent homicide, manslaughter and prohibited contact in the death of their 2-month-old son on Aug. 1. Both remain incarcerated.

Police say the infant ingested methamphetamine in the travel camper, where his parents were using and dealing drugs. The camper was parked on property owned by Austin’s grandfather at 54 Penacook St., and it’s where the couple and their children had lived for about two weeks prior to the infant’s death, according to the affidavit.

The couple’s second child, a 2-year-old girl, is in the care of her maternal grandmother, according to police. Concord police Lt. Sean Ford said the state’s Division for Children, Youth and Families became involved Aug. 1, when the infant was found unresponsive and later died at Concord Hospital.

The arrests Tuesday of Austin and Ross culminated a monthslong investigation, which prosecutors said did not conclude until last week. Assistant Merrimack County Attorney Catherine Ruffle said authorities consulted with state medical examiners and multiple toxicologists before filing charges.

“One of the challenges in this case is that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to determine a lethal amount of methamphetamine to an infant, because there are no evidence-based tests that are done. You don’t provide methamphetamine intentionally to children to see what the consequences are going to be,” Ruffle said, adding that, as a result, investigators had to rely extensively on expert analysis.

The medical examiner concluded the infant died of methamphetamine intoxication, which resulted in a homicide.

In a sworn affidavit, Concord police Det. Bryan Croft wrote that investigators who responded to the travel camper on Aug. 1 described the living conditions as “deplorable.” Officers observed pipes; hypodermic needles; ledgers; digital scales; and drugs, including prescription pills and methamphetamine.

Ross told police he started using methamphetamine – up to 7 grams a day – because he feared overdosing on heroin, the affidavit says. During their conversation, police told him about the risks of secondary ingestion, and Ross questioned whether residual amounts of methamphetamine on his hands could have harmed the child.

Police said Wednesday they could not comment on the amount of methamphetamine found in the infant’s system, but noted that exposure to any amount of the manmade narcotic is extremely dangerous.

Defense attorney Tracy Scavarelli told the court that Ross has actively engaged in drug treatment, including at the Farnum Center in Manchester and at R.O.A.D. to a Better Life in Concord. She said insurance stopped covering treatment at R.O.A.D., an outpatient facility, but that after a recent relapse he now qualifies for further in-patient treatment.

While Scaverelli asked for a judge to release Ross under the supervision of the county’s pretrial services program, prosecutors said Ross has exhibited a pattern of noncompliance with court orders and, therefore, should remain in custody.

Concord prosecutor Tracy Connolly said Ross has continued to use drugs. She cited an incident earlier this month when police arrested and charged Ross with possession of a deadly weapon, brass knuckles. She said he was high on methamphetamine at the time.

“He’s a risk and will continue to be a risk,” she said.

Attorneys spent less time discussing the case against Austin, who was arraigned after Ross. Austin had been out of jail on pre-trial services prior to her arrest Tuesday. Her attorney, Andrew Cotrupi, said Austin had done everything the program had required of her, while also holding two jobs. He said she had the continued support of her relatives, many of whom attended Wednesday’s hearing.

But Connolly said Austin’s drug use had “impaired her ability to be a decent parent” to her children, and that the latest charges put her at greater risk of flight.

Judge Kristin Spath ultimately sided with prosecutors, ordering Ross held for lack of $100,000 bail and Austin held for lack of $20,000 bail. Ross and Austin are prohibited from having any contact with each other as part of their bail conditions.

Austin is scheduled to face a judge again May 25 for a probable cause hearing. Ross is scheduled to appear in court next June 1.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)