Murder charges filed against parents of Santa Rosa toddler who died from fentanyl intoxication
The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office on Thursday filed murder charges against the parents of a 15-month-old toddler who died in May after she ingested fentanyl authorities believe her mother had been using.
Prosecutors also charged the Santa Rosa couple, Evan Frostick, 26, and Madison Bernard, 23, with child cruelty and tacked on a sentence-enhancing charge alleging their actions willfully caused the suffering of a child.
Frostick was taken into custody without bail Thursday morning after a brief appearance in Sonoma County Superior Court in Santa Rosa.
Bernard did not attend the hearing and a no-bail warrant was issued for her arrest.
Judge Robert LaForge said the court had been contacted by someone who identified herself as Bernard’s mother, who said Bernard would be attending the hearing remotely over Zoom because she has COVID-19.
But, LaForge said, “they were notified that she needed to appear in court today.”
Frostick attended the arraignment without an attorney and was appointed a public defender.
A plea hearing was scheduled for Aug. 11 before LaForge.
The couple, who police have described as boyfriend and girlfriend, were briefly arrested on suspicion of child cruelty on May 9, the day their daughter died, but they were released two days later pending further investigation to determine whether fentanyl played a role in the child’s death.
Last month, the Sonoma County Coroner’s Office confirmed “acute fentanyl intoxication” caused the death of 15-month-old Charlotte Frostick.
According to the coroner’s report, Bernard used fentanyl and went to sleep while drugs and paraphernalia were on the bed she shared with Charlotte inside their Sonoma Avenue apartment.
Investigators believe Charlotte ingested the fentanyl by touching it and then possibly putting her hands in her mouth or eyes, Santa Rosa police Sgt. Chris Mahurin said last month.
Bernard discovered the toddler was not breathing and called authorities to their home at about 10:30 a.m., police said. Charlotte was pronounced dead about an hour later at Providence Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
Earlier this week, Mahurin reiterated that investigators are still trying to determine where Bernard and Frostick got the fentanyl.
North Bay lawmakers and experts have decried the impact fentanyl has had across the region in recent years.
Fentanyl is a potent and addictive synthetic opioid that is prescribed by doctors for pain management and the treatment of cancer patients. It is also used recreationally, often combined with other drugs. It is considered one of the leading causes of overdose deaths in Sonoma County and across the country.
Since 2017, at least 70% of the more than 500 overdose deaths that have occurred in Sonoma County have been linked to fentanyl.
From February 2017 to December 2017, the opioid was present in 14 overdoses in Sonoma County. In 2018, fentanyl-related deaths rose to 31 and hovered around that same amount in 2019.
By 2020, fentanyl was linked to 111 deaths, according to county records.
Fentanyl’s toxicity is 100 times more powerful than morphine — even a trace amount of it can be deadly, officials say. It also can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled when in a powder.
Charlotte Frostick’s death occurred nearly three years after the opioid-related death of another Santa Rosa toddler.
In September 2019, fentanyl was blamed for the deaths of Patrick O’Neill, 29, and his 13-month-old son, Liam, who were discovered inside their Santa Rosa home on Darek Drive.
Investigators say O’Neill used fentanyl with friends before heading home with his son. Liam’s mother, Emily Guillory of Petaluma, said she believes her son crawled out of bed that night and ingested fentanyl he found on the floor.
Three defendants were charged with supplying O’Neill the opioids. They were convicted in federal court on lesser charges of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl.
Outside the North Bay, a Brentwood mother was charged with murder in Contra Costa County Superior Court after her 2-year-old son consumed fentanyl in November 2020.
In July 2021, she pleaded no contest to one count of voluntary manslaughter and was later sentenced to 11 years in prison, court records show.
You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at email@example.com and Staff Writer Matt Pera at firstname.lastname@example.org.