Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

February 6, 2014
Mother charged with homicide in accidental poisoning of toddler

The mother of a 2-year-old boy who died after allegedly ingesting methadone has been charged with her son’s death.

Jill Goff, 32, was charged Wednesday with child abuse homicide, a second-degree felony. Goff was arrested Saturday after two of her children, an 8-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl, tested positive for methadone in their system. Her 2-year-old son had died on Friday night, and police say it is possible the boy’s death was from a methadone overdose.

Capt. Paul Wimmer of the Tooele City Police Department, said an autopsy performed Sunday revealed no physical indication of cause of death, and toxicology will be rushed for completion in a few weeks.

Goff told police she had kept liquid methadone in a Gatorade bottle, which she had then mistaken for real Gatorade and inadvertently poured into the toddler’s sippy cup, according to a probable cause statement. When the toddler didn’t like the drink, Goff had the 5-year-old try it, and then the 8-year-old, who told her it tasted like “medicine,” according to the statement, which made her realize her mistake. Wimmer said Goff’s husband — the children’s father — was at work at the time of the incident.

Wimmer said Goff told police she was scared of getting in trouble for the mix-up and tried to solve the problem by trying to make the boy throw up and nap. Goff called for an ambulance when another child discovered the boy was not breathing about three hours after the incident. Wimmer said police believe Goff’s possession of the methadone was prescribed and legal.

Methadone is a synthetic opoide most commonly prescribed to people recovering from addiction to opoites, such as heroin or painkillers, though it is also sometimes prescribed for people with other conditions. It comes in capsule and liquid form; Goff’s methadone was liquid.

The incident has shocked many in the community, and while it is uncommon, there have been several similar incidents across the country within the last two and a half years.

According to the Clinton Herald, a newspaper in Scott County, Iowa, a 13-month-old girl died in Clinton, Iowa last September after ingesting liquid methadone. The girl’s mother, Precious Bailey, 25, had allegedly mixed a dose of methadone in a Gatorade bottle. The girl sometimes had Gatorade in a bottle or sippy cup, and a mix-up had occurred.

About six hours later, after the girl showed symptoms of lethargy and labored breathing, Bailey and the girl’s father, Spencer Smith, 24, took the baby to a hospital emergency room.

The girl died three days later of complications from ingesting the methadone, according to the news story. Bailey and Smith were charged with felony child endangerment and are currently in court for the case.

In another case from Iowa, a 9-month-old baby girl from Moline had somehow ingested methadone and choked on her own vomit and died in Sept. 2012, according to a report from WQAD 8. The baby was allegedly born addicted to methadone, which had been prescribed to her mother, and was weaned off of it in the hospital, according to WQAD’s story.

Investigators did not know why methadone was still present in the child’s system, and in high enough levels to be fatal eight months later. The parents in that case were not criminally charged.

A Baltimore grandmother, 50-year-old Towanda Reaves, allegedly rubbed liquid methadone on the gums of two of her young grandchildren last July. She discovered the older of the two children, a year-old grandson, not breathing about two hours after rubbing the drug on his gums and called 911. The boy was pronounced dead about an hour later, according to an article in the Baltimore Sun.

About nine hours later, the other baby, a 9-month-old granddaughter, was taken to the hospital and a test showed she had methadone in her system, but she survived. Reaves was charged with second-degree murder, child abuse resulting in death, first-degree child abuse causing serious injury, reckless endangerment and multiple counts of first- and second-degree assault, according to the Sun.

Not all cases involve fatalities. In a Maryland incident from Sept. 2012, Paul Brooks, 28, illegally purchased liquid methadone and put it in an empty McDonald’s cup, which he placed in a cupholder in his car, according to the Capital Gazette, a Maryland newspaper. When he picked up his son from kindergarten, the boy sipped the liquid through a straw as Brooks got in the car, according to the Gazette’s story.

About three hours later, when the boy stopped breathing, Brooks took his child to the hospital. Doctors said the child would have died if he had gone one more minute without medical aid, the story states.

After a trial, Brooks was acquitted of charges of child abuse, but found guilty of neglect of a minor, reckless endangerment and seven other charges, according to the Gazette. He was sentenced in March 2013 to 18 months of jail time, with work release, and three years of probation.

Last July in White Haven, Pa., a 2-year-old girl drank methadone from a medicine bottle on her mother’s dresser, according to a story by the Standard Speaker, a newspaper in Hazelton, Pa. Her parents told police they did not realize what had happened until the girl was acting funny about an hour and a half later.

The mother, Sharon Skonieczny, 35, told police she researched antidotes to methadone online and tried to make her daughter vomit, the Speaker reports, while the police allege the father, Adam Skonieczny, 30, went to a store, took the dog on a walk and took the girl to a restaurant 13 miles away before contacting 911 three hours after the incident. The girl survived.

In May 2007, a 2-year-old child in Jefferson County, Ala., ingested a methadone tablet, according to a story published by The Birmingham News. The boy’s aunt and uncle, who were caring for him at the time, took him to the emergency room, where he was released after being monitored for several hours, the reporting states.

About four hours later, the couple took the boy back to the hospital because he was not breathing, according to the story, and he died a half hour later. The family later sued the hospital for allegedly failing to take proper steps to make sure the child had not overdosed when he was brought into the emergency room the first time.

The News reported in Feb. 2011 that the court awarded $2.4 million in damages in the case.

Lisa Christensen

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Lisa covers primarily crime and courts, military affairs, Stansbury Park government and transportation issues. She is a graduate of Utah State University, where she double-majored in journalism and music, and Grantsville High School.

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