Father sentenced to state prison for death of infant son

  • Bradford Ross was sentenced in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord on Jan. 18, 2018, for using and selling methamphetamine in the presence of his 2-month-old son who died as a result of his exposure to the drug. —Alyssa Dandrea/Monitor staff

  • Bradford Ross was sentenced in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord on Thursday for using and selling methamphetamine in the presence of his 2-month-old son who died as a result of his exposure to the drug. Alyssa Dandrea / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Thursday, January 18, 2018

A father sentenced Thursday in the methamphetamine death of his 2-month-old son was told by a judge that the loss of innocent lives – especially those so young and vulnerable – is the greatest consequence of the drug epidemic.

“I really hope that anybody that’s involved in use themselves or involved in selling – or any involvement in illegal drug activity – gives pause to think about how their conduct can affect innocent people,” Merrimack County Superior Court Judge John Kissinger Jr. told Bradford Ross. “I can see it on your face. You are wearing this, and you are going to continue to wear this for a very long time.”

Ross, 25, previously of Penacook, was sentenced to 2½ to five years in state prison for handling methamphetamine in close proximity to his son, Cayden Ross. The state medical examiner concluded that the boy died in August 2016 of methamphetamine intoxication after toxicology tests showed traces of the drug in his blood and liver.

In addition to the felony prohibited conduct charge, Ross pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of possession of a controlled drug with intent to distribute. He received an additional three- to six-year sentence, all suspended for 15 years as part of a plea agreement. He will be on parole for two years following his release from prison.

Assistant Merrimack County Attorney David Rotman called the circumstances surrounding Cayden’s death “tragic and completely avoidable,” but acknowledged that Ross never intended for the boy to die because of his actions.

Prosecutors had levied charges of negligent homicide and manslaughter against Ross in May 2017; however, those more serious charges were dropped as part of the plea deal.

“I would like to reiterate that Mr. Ross since Day One has wanted to accept responsibility for his role in these matters,” said public defender Tracy Scavarelli.

Ross echoed those sentiments in a brief statement to the court Thursday, adding, “I appreciate everything the court has done.”

At the time of the infant’s death, Ross was living in a travel camper parked on property at 54 Penacook St. His partner, Kayla Austin, and a 2-year-old girl, the couple’s first child, also lived there.

In a sworn affidavit, Concord police Detective Bryan Croft wrote that investigators who responded to the travel camper on Aug. 1, 2016, 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.

The criminal case against Austin is still pending. She is scheduled to stand trial in late May on charges stemming from the death of her son. A separate trial on the drug charges is tentatively scheduled to start in late August and continue into the first week of September.

Rotman said in court Thursday that Ross received the maximum sentence allowable under the law for the charges the state chose to pursue. He said he hopes the case will bring to light the dangers of methamphetamine use, not only to the users but to those they care about.

“The message that it sends to our community is if you engage in the use or distribution of this poison, known as methamphetamine, and your actions lead to the death of anyone, even someone you love and deeply care about, and even if you did not intend their death, then you’re going to go to prison,” Rotman said.

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