Concord mom injected with heroin during labor looks to treatment, recovery at sentencing

  • Felicia Farruggia is seen during her plea and sentencing hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord on Wednesday, June 21, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Felicia Farruggia looks down during her plea and sentencing hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord on Wednesday. She was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading guilty to one charge of reckless conduct. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Felicia Farruggia is seen during her plea and sentencing hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord on Wednesday. She pleaded guilty to one count of reckless conduct and received a one-year jail sentence with credit for 72 days served along with two years probation. Farruggia asked her friend to inject her with heroin while giving birth in 2016. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Wednesday, June 21, 2017

With her wrists cuffed at her waist, Felicia Farruggia rose from her chair Wednesday to tell a judge that she is ready to rid herself of past drug abuse and a lifestyle that made her lose sight of everything good.

Farruggia, 29, of Concord said at her plea and sentencing hearing that she has no excuses for the events that transpired Sept. 15, 2016, when she screamed and begged for heroin while in active labor on her bathroom floor. Police say her housemate, Rhianna Frenette, rushed to Farruggia’s flailing shrieks, grabbed the needle and injected the drug into her veins.

Frenette later told police she injected Farruggia, in part because she was concerned for the mother’s safety, as she seemed intent on injecting a possibly lethal amount, according to court records. Frenette also said she was high on methamphetamine at the time.

Farruggia reached a plea deal with prosecutors that prioritizes treatment over incarceration. She pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of reckless conduct, an enhanced misdemeanor punishable by up to five years in prison. She received a one-year jail sentence, with credit for 72 days already served, and two years probation.

In her statement to the court, Farruggia said she is thankful to be “not only alive and well, but a different person.”

“Addiction is a horrible disease, one that I will spend the rest of my life fighting,” she said, adding, “one that for the first time ever I’m ready to fight.”

Attorneys recommended her for participation in the county’s Successful Offender Adjustment and Re-entry program, which operates out of the Merrimack County jail in Boscawen and is being remodeled to include a community aftercare component.

While awaiting the resolution of her case, Farruggia completed a 28-day residential drug treatment program at the Phoenix House. Upon her completion of the program, she returned to the county jail where she has continued her recovery, said Deputy County Attorney Catherine Ruffle, who prosecuted Farruggia.

Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara told Farruggia that he supports a sentence where the primary goal is rehabilitation and not punishment. He credited her for successfully completing the Phoenix House’s program, and said he believes she is on the right path forward.

Farruggia told McNamara that she has had periods of sobriety but never been in active recovery, until now.

“I know that I still have a very long road ahead of me, but for the first time, that road doesn’t look so scary,” she said.

Farruggia made national headlines in March when Concord police arrested and charged her with felony reckless conduct, accusing her of allowing herself to be injected with heroin during labor. The reckless conduct case against Frenette, 38, is still pending.

The charges against both women were reduced from felonies to misdemeanors after defense attorneys argued before a circuit court judge that a syringe filled with heroin should not be considered a deadly weapon under the circumstances.

Farruggia delivered her child in the driveway in front of her Elmwood Avenue apartment. The baby boy was born lethargic and still in the amniotic sac, both of which are considered unusual circumstances, Concord police Detective Nicole Murray previously said in circuit court testimony.

The child was placed in state custody after his birth.

No heroin was found in the mother or the baby when they were tested at Concord Hospital, even though they tested positive for other drugs, including methamphetamine and amphetamine. Farruggia also tested positive for benzodiazepines, a type of anti-anxiety drug, according to court records.

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