Felicia Farruggia lay on the bathroom floor of her Elmwood Avenue apartment in September as birthing contractions racked her body, screaming and begging for heroin, police said.
Housemate Rhianna Frenette rushed in, saw a syringe and offered to inject the drug to help “take the edge off.” As Farruggia cried and repeatedly said, “I can’t do this,” Frenette found a clear spot on the woman’s arm, which was already covered with track marks, according to affidavits filed in district court.
Farruggia’s boyfriend Christopher Wathen called 911 for an ambulance and poked his head in the bathroom to see Frenette sitting next to his girlfriend holding a syringe. Wathen later said to police he told Frenette not to inject her.
Frenette, who later confessed she was likely high on methamphetamine at the time, jabbed a dirty needle into Farruggia’s arm, but had to pull it out as another contraction came. After it had passed, she plunged the needle in a second time and successfully delivered a dose of the drug, according to affidavits filed by Concord Police.
When Concord Fire Department paramedic Jeff Schottler arrived on scene, Farruggia was still on the bathroom floor, with her baby’s head crowning. The apartment was too chaotic and messy to treat the mother, so Schottler called his crew to get a stretcher and transport her to the ambulance quickly, court records show.
Farruggia, 29, delivered a baby boy in the driveway as EMTs carried her to the waiting ambulance.
Seven months later, she and Frenette are facing felony charges of reckless conduct. The two women were arraigned in Concord District Court on Wednesday morning and are currently being held on cash bail at Merrimack County Jail. Frenette, 37, of Belmont faces an additional misdemeanor charge for reckless conduct.
The charges for both women stem from the act of injecting Farruggia with drugs during child labor. Farruggia is being charged with endangering the life of her baby and is being held on $15,000 bail. Frenette is being charged with endangering the life of the mother and the baby and is being held on $25,000 bail.
“We felt we had a solid charge, given the gravity of the situation,” said Concord police Lt. Sean Ford, adding law enforcement consider the circumstances “extremely dangerous.”
Farruggia’s child was placed in state custody following his birth. In September, staff at Concord Hospital told the police the infant’s condition was “stable,” but said the baby was breathing very rapidly, drawing an estimated 100 breaths per minute (a normal breathing rate for infants is 30-40 breaths per minute).
It appears Farruggia was also a methamphetamine user; both mother and baby tested positive for methampethatime and amphetamine in their urine; Farruggia also tested positive for benzodiazepines, a type of anti-anxiety drug, court records show.
She told police she had taken the treatment drug Subutex, but also admitted to being a “chronic drug user” who had used illicit drugs for over half of her pregnancy, according to an affadavit.
“Felicia said that if anyone put drugs in front of her, regardless of what they were, she would take them,” the affidavit stated.
Farruggia and boyfriend Wathen were living at the Elmwood Avenue residence with other “numerous residents” that Wathen identified as drug users and dealers – but Farruggia also complained to police that she felt other residents were judging her for using drugs while pregnant, records show.
Frenette told police that she entered the apartment bathroom on Sept. 15 to help Farruggia because she was in “full-blown labor” and was “mutilating herself with the needle” in an attempt to inject the drug.
Seeing a large amount of “suspected” heroin in the needle Farruggia was holding, Frenette said, she asked the woman, “So what, you’re not going to let us call the ambulance until that’s in your body?” She added that Farruggia said yes.
Frenette told police she took the syringe, shot out about half of the contents herself and injected the rest into Farruggia, believing that the woman “would have injected herself with a significant amount of heroin if she had not intervened.”
“Rhianna said she felt as though she lessened what Felicia was ultimately going to do,” the police affidavit states. Frenette also described herself as “people pleaser” who wanted to do what was asked of her.
Concord police Lt. Ford said both heroin and methamphetamine were present in the house at the time.
Ford said methamphetamine is quickly overtaking heroin and fentanyl as the predominant drug of choice among Concord’s drug users.
“The meth has overtaken the heroin two- or threefold,” Ford said. “This thing is getting out of control in Concord.”
For every case Concord police officers have with heroin, they’re dealing with another three to four meth cases, Ford said. He said part of the increase is heroin users trying a different drug, coupled with an uptick in new meth users.
“It’s hit us like a tidal wave,” he said. “The last 18 months have been explosive.”
(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, email@example.com or on Twitter @ella_nilsen.)