Va. mother on trial for 5-month-old's heroin overdose

Accused mom Marilyn R. Fischl, left, and babysitters Erin Flynn and Patrick Hall.
Accused mom Marilyn R. Fischl, left, and babysitters Erin Flynn and Patrick Hall. (Courtesy of Fairfax County Sheriff's Office)
By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Erin Flynn said she and Patrick Hall had just finished snorting lines of heroin, with a 5-month-old boy nearby, when she stepped outside to smoke a cigarette. When she returned to the Fairfax County townhouse a few minutes later, the infant had a piece of paper in his mouth that might have had some of the drug on it.

Before long, the boy was in the emergency room, and doctors soon determined that he had overdosed on heroin. His mother, who allegedly supplied the drug to Hall and Flynn, was charged with felony child abuse and neglect. Her trial began Tuesday in Fairfax County Circuit Court.

Marilyn R. Fischl, 36, denied giving Hall and Flynn heroin July 14 before they were to babysit for the youngest of her three children. But she acknowledged in court of knowing that Hall and Flynn were drug addicts when she left her child with them and that she is a heroin addict who relapsed after her children were taken by child protective services following the infant's overdose.

The baby has since recovered, authorities said. Flynn, 32, has pleaded guilty to felony child abuse and neglect, and testified against Fischl in the hope that her cooperation would be noted at her sentencing. Charges are still pending against Hall, 42, and Rafael Preston, 30, the boy's father.

Flynn and Fischl testified that they met last year at the Recovery Women's Center, an outpatient drug treatment center in Fairfax. Flynn said they had shot up and snorted heroin together in Fischl's car and in the rented townhouse in Springfield, including 10 days before the baby's overdose.

Flynn said she began sleeping in Fischl's basement last summer, where Hall already was living. She said she saw Fischl provide Hall with heroin on various occasions, often as Fischl was getting ready to leave the house. But she said the drug was never specifically characterized as a payment for babysitting. In addition to the 5-month-old boy, Fischl has a 2-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son.

On July 14, Flynn said, Fischl went downstairs to the basement "and gave Patrick a [folded] piece of paper that contained heroin in it." Fischl told Hall and Flynn that she had to take her daughter to an appointment and left. Soon after, with the baby in arm's reach, "Mr. Hall and I snorted a line of heroin each," which was arranged on a separate piece of paper, Flynn said.

While Hall played with the baby on the floor, Flynn said she went outside to smoke. She returned to chat with Hall, who said he had to leave, and she went back outside for another cigarette.

The baby was in his car seat when she returned, Flynn said, and she saw something in his mouth. "I thought it might have been the piece of paper that Patrick and I had consumed heroin off of," Flynn testified.

Flynn said she watched the baby closely, but he showed no ill effects. When the baby's grandmother came to pick him up, Flynn said that she noticed the infant was groggy and constantly sucking, though nothing was in his mouth. The grandmother brought the baby back to the townhouse, and Flynn said the boy's "body was quivering, and his eyes were rolling in the back of his head."

Fischl testified that she rushed home and saw "my son was having a seizure." She took him to the Inova HealthPlex at Franconia-Springfield, and he was then taken to the Inova Fairfax Hospital emergency room.

Fischl denied giving Hall any heroin that day. She said she had known him for 15 years and allowed him to sleep in the basement in exchange for watching her children. She said there were no drugs or paraphernalia around the house that day.

On cross-examination, Fischl said her taped, transcribed interview with Detective Darrin DeCoster in October was "not what I said," although she admitted knowing that Flynn was a heroin addict. She said that photos taken of her house in October, in which police found more than 100 hypodermic needles, occurred after she had a relapse and that there were no needles in her home when the infant overdosed.

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