In what can be only termed a “sad sad” tragedy, an eight-month-old boy in Sacramento, California died after ingesting drug laced breast milk.

Ryder Salmen met his untimely death after overdosing on a deadly breast milk cocktail of Xanax, methadone and the painkiller Opana.

Baby Ryder’s death appeared a mystery to the Citrus Heights police when they were called to an apartment for the unresponsive infant in September 2012. It was only after the toxicology reports came in that they realized a poisonous mix of drugs killed the child.

After nearly a year of investigation the ‘careless and drug-fuelled’ mother, 32-year-old Sarah Anne Stephens was charged with murder and two felony counts of child endangerment. Apparently, she intentionally nursed the infant with lethal breast milk to keep him in a daze which made him quiet and easy to manage.

Grandfather wanted custody
The family knew Sarah was a danger and in no way fit to care for a baby. Her dangerous drug habit caused Ryder’s grandfather, Alan Salmen, to fight for custody and have her parental rights stripped but tragically, he was unsuccessful.

“She deliberately, in my opinion, fed that baby drugs so she wouldn’t have to — That was her babysitter,” said Alan Salmen.

“We reached out,” he said. “We knew what was going on, ‘Please give him to us. If you don’t have the time or don’t want to do it, please, we’re here.’”

Sarah warned 5 months prior to death
As per the court documents, Sarah was issued a warning five months before the baby died to refrain from nursing Ryder if she was going to continue abusing prescription drugs.

Apparently the infant’s bloodstream exhibited high levels of methadone after a four-month old Ryder was brought to a hospital in a lethargic state. Stephens was also suspected of abuse after she drove off the road with baby Ryder in the back seat.

Ryder was classified as a “high-risk baby” by social workers, which meant a safety plan was needed if the baby was to remain in the mother’s custody. However records of the Sacramento County Child Protective Services (CPS) show that the manager took three months to approve the plan which a social worker created.

Ed Howard, senior counsel for the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law stated, “Is it their policy to wait three months to approve safety assessments for the children of drug-addicted mothers? This undermines the confidence about whether Sacramento County CPS is doing its job.”

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