A Washington state couple is facing numerous charges after police said the parents kept their three young children in a home littered with rat droppings and drug needles and injected them with heroin, which they called “feel good medicine.”
Ashlee Hutt, 24, and Mac Leroy McIver, 25, have been charged with unlawful delivery of a controlled substance to a person under 18, criminal mistreatment in the second degree and assault of a child in the second degree, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in September in Pierce County Superior Court.
McIver, who was arraigned in September, is also being held on $100,000 bail.
“The kids lived in deplorable conditions,” Pierce County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Detective Ed Troyer told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “It wasn't a good living situation even without the issue of heroin.”
“We unfortunately find kids living in deplorable conditions all too often, but we don't see parents intentionally putting drugs into kids,” he added.
The three children have been placed into protective custody, Troyer said.
Troyer said both Hutt and McIver have pleaded not guilty. It's unclear whether the two have attorneys.
Last November, when social workers removed the children — ages 2, 4 and 6 — from the home outside Tacoma, the children were living in squalor, according to the court documents.
“Aluminum foil rolls and cooker heroin were observed in the bedroom on the dresser next to the bed,” according to the probable cause affidavit. Child protective services reported “multiple individuals lived at the resident and everyone was using heroin.”
Social workers discovered bruises on the 2-year-old's body that appeared to be from drug injections, according to the court documents.
The 6-year-old told social workers that McIver had choked him and his siblings and that the couple gave them “feel good medicine.”
“He described the 'feel good medicine' as a white powder which was mixed with water,” according to the probable cause affidavit. “His parents then used a needle to inject the 'feel good medicine' into him and his sisters.”
He said he and his sisters would fall asleep after the injections.
Two months after the children were taken into protective custody, authorities performed hair follicle tests on the children, according to the court documents. The 6-year-old tested negative for heroin; the 4-year-old had heroin in her system but not enough to result in a positive test; the 2-year-old tested positive for the drug.
Both Hutt and McIver admitted to being heroin users, though McIver told authorities he believed the babysitter was responsible for injecting the children with heroin, according to the court documents.
Children have become victims in an opioid epidemic ravaging the nation — watching their parents shoot up, and sometimes, overdose and die.
In September, a chilling photograph captured the innocence lost on a 4-year-old's face in East Liverpool, Ohio. A man and woman were slumped over after overdosing in a vehicle; the boy was still strapped into his car seat in the back.
A week later and 600 miles away at a Family Dollar store in Lawrence, Mass., a hysterical toddler trying to wake her mother after an apparent drug overdose was captured on a cellphone video.
Then last month, a 7-year-old girl in McKeesport, Pa., told her school bus driver that she hadn't been able to wake the adults in her house for days and that their bodies were beginning to change colors; she had been caring for three other children in the home, 5 years, 3 years and 9 months old, and had gotten herself to school, police said.
A new study suggests that children in the midst of the nation's drug war are battling more than psychological consequences.
The findings, published earlier this week in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, show that from 1997 to 2012, 13,052 children were hospitalized for poisonings from opioid prescriptions, such as Oxycodone, Percocet and codeine.
And 176 of them died.
The numbers show that hospitalizations for prescription opioid poisonings in children doubled during those years.
Report author Julie R. Gaither, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Medicine who has also studied the injuries to children from firearms, drew parallels between the need to store guns safely and the need to make sure opioid pills are stored safely.
“These children are getting into their parents’ or grandparents’ medication. Opioids are now ubiquitous in millions of U.S. homes,” Gaither said in an interview. “They are like guns — you have these dangerous things, and we need to keep [them] out of the hands of the most vulnerable.”
In Washington state, Hutt and McIver are due back in court Nov. 18, according to the Pierce County prosecutor's office. Hutt's trial begins Dec. 20, and McIver's starts Feb. 16.
This story has been updated.