LAWRENCE — The parents of a 1-year-old girl are being held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing after the baby was rushed to the hospital for fentanyl exposure.
The baby is expected to live and recover fully. Fentanyl is a man-made opioid responsible for numerous overdose deaths across the region and the nation.
It is the second time in recent months that a local child has been hospitalized for exposure to fentanyl. Precious Wallaces, 11, of Haverhill, died a few days after exposure to fentanyl on Dec. 15.
“The magnitude of the opioid crisis rises to a whole new level anytime children are involved,” Lawrence Police Chief Roy Vasque said in a statement. “It becomes even more alarming when it involves an infant as in this case. This is not a local or even a Commonwealth of Massachusetts issue, but rather the largest epidemic of its kind the country is facing. As a result there needs to be a comprehensive nationwide plan in the area of enforcement, education, and rehabilitation.”
The baby girl was taken to Lawrence General Hospital on Monday after her mother found her with a pill in her mouth. Her mother took her to the hospital, where she was admitted after testing detected the presence of fentanyl.
At their arraignment Tuesday morning, parents McDanner Pereyra and Jennifer Ouch, both 27 and from Lawrence, were ordered held until a dangerousness hearing Feb. 26. If that hearing determines they are a danger to society, they will continue to be held without bail.
Police said Ouch lied to them by saying the girl found a pill on the floor of a store and put it in her mouth.
The girl’s 6-year-old brother told officers she actually picked up the pill at their home and put it in her mouth, according to a police report on file at Lawrence District Court.
Pereyra later admitted that he told Ouch, who is his girlfriend, to lie and say the pill came from the store, according to the police report. Pereyra said he told her to lie because he feared the state might take their children away, according to the report.
When Ouch noticed the pill in her mouth, she removed it and washed the child’s mouth out with water, according to a statement made by the girl’s brother to police. Pereyra told Ouch to take the girl to the hospital, where medical personnel determined she had fentanyl in her system, but that she would make a full recovery, the report said.
That visit to Lawrence General Hospital at 2:30 p.m. Monday kicked off a police investigation that ended with the parents facing drug and illegal ammunition charges. They were ordered held without bail Tuesday morning at their arraignment in Lawrence District Court.
Police spokesman Detective Thomas Cuddy said all indications from medical personnel are that the child will recover fully.
Cuddy said detectives responded to the hospital, along with investigators from the state Department of Children and Families. He said the child’s parents were interviewed by detectives and state investigators, and following the interview, a search warrant was obtained for the couple’s home at 65 Osgood St.
When executing the search warrant, police discovered a variety of illegal narcotics and ammunition, for which a license to carry a firearm or FID card is required, Cuddy said.
According to the police report on file at Lawrence District Court, police searching the home found a plastic bag containing what appeared to be 32.1 grams of fentanyl. The bag was on top of the kitchen cabinets, the report said. Police found another bag of what appeared to be 11.8 grams of fentanyl in a bag in the kitchen pantry, the report said.
The report said officers also found other items in the home: In the parent’s bedroom closet was a zip lock bag containing 17 promethazine hydrochloride tablets. Promethazine is an anti-allergy medication that can cause drowsiness. Also in the closet were two Xanax bars and half a Xanax bar. Xanax is an anti-anxiety medication. A bar is a tablet that has been scored by the manufacturer to be broken easily into smaller doses.
The report said officers also found a bag with what appeared to be drug residue on the floor near the bed; a gun box under the bed, and inside the box a magazine containing 11 9 mm rounds, a gun holster, assorted gun accessories and an operation manual for a semiautomatic pistol; $896 in cash under the mattress; and in a drawer in the front room of the home several boxes of 7.62 mm rounds of ammunition, 23 loose 9 mm rounds, and 20 loose 7.62 mm rounds.
Police said the Pereyra denied ownership of all the ammunition and the gun box, saying it belongs to a friend. He also denied owning a gun, according to the police report. The report indicated he said the bag of powder in the pantry wasn’t his and that he doesn’t believe it is drugs, and also that he denied dealing any drugs other than marijuana.
The police report said six people live at the home — Pereyra and Ouch, the two children and two other adults who recently moved in.
The couple’s son is now in state custody, police said. The investigation is ongoing and more charges may follow, police said.
This is the second time in the last two months that a local child has been exposed to fentanyl, according to police.
In the early morning of Dec. 15, 11-year-old Precious Wallaces, a student at Consentino School in Haverhill, was rushed to Lawrence General Hospital where she tested positive for fentanyl. Investigators said she was visiting her uncle in Lawrence at the time.
Precious died several days later at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, where she had been in a coma and on life support.
Autopsy testing of the girl’s body revealed the presence of fentanyl and amitriptyline, a sleeping medication.
The girl’s uncle, Miguel Rivera, 58, of 233 Jackson St., #5, was charged in January with permitting bodily injury to a child and misleading a police investigation in connection with Precious’ death. Rivera was also charged with rape of a child.