Arizona Toddler Dies From Methadone Overdose, Mother Charged With Murder

Patrick Smith was born with drugs in his body and, just 18 months later, died with drugs in his body. His mother, Donna Rose Smith, has been charged with murder and child abuse, but her history with Arizona’s Child Protective Services (CPS) shows that the state may have failed to protect Patrick as well. The Arizona Republic reports:

Donna Smith was days away from her 20th birthday when she gave birth to her only child prematurely. In the two months before delivery, the young Oro Valley woman and heroin addict failed court-ordered drug tests six times, according to Child Protective Services reports.

Those records show Smith had a long history of drug charges.

Patrick was taken into state custody just two days after Smith gave birth to him, but was returned to her a week later.CPS determined that Smith’s involvement in “criminal activity” did not endanger Patrick’s safety and concluded that Smith and her mother, who lived in the same home, could take care of the newborn. Initially, the arrangement worked out well:

Throughout the fall, Donna Smith attended classes to improve her parenting skills and help her keep clean. Caseworkers wrote she was making progress.

In May 2011, she graduated from parenting classes and drug court.

That month, she had gallbladder surgery, took more than the prescribed dosage of painkillers and relapsed, records show.

Per CPS reports, rehab counselors were concerned that Smith was becoming depressed and suicidal over her dependency. She was later kicked out of the rehab center for relapsing and attempting suicide. Despite this, CPSreports show that Patrick was a typical happy toddler. Case notes describe him playing well with other children and singing “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.”

However, Smith’s drug addiction continued, as did CPS’ apparent belief that it would not impact her parenting:

…Donna Smith continued to test positive for drugs last summer, letters from the state said. Yet, although she’d failed four drug tests in a month, CPS workers told her on Aug. 15 it would be their last home visit and they were closing the case.

Six months later, Patrick’s mother found him blue and motionless in his crib. She called 911. Emergency technicians pronounced him dead at the scene.

Medical examiners found nothing noteworthy until they got the toxicology results. Patrick’s blood and urine had methadone, an opiate and painkiller to help heroin addicts kick the habit. It’s unknown how Patrick ingested the drugs.

Reports from other news outlets indicate that Oro Valley police believe Smith gave Patrick a lethal dose of methadone.

While Patrick’s family hasn’t commented on his death, parents from La Canada Kindercare, Patrick’s day-care center, posted online condolences. Their memories of him recall the same happy, playful boy described in CPS reports:

Kristy Vaccaro wrote of her son George’s friendship with Patrick.

“I have heard numerous stories of them laughing at nothing at all. I recall the many times I was there to pick up George and they were in the sandbox playing together. KinderCare has told me George hasn’t been at all himself this week,” she wrote days after Patrick died.