BUCKHANNON – Three people arrested on child neglect charges are being held without bond after a two-year-old child in their care suffered from fentanyl poisoning that police say could have been fatal.
Helene Wodzinksi, 61; Brittany R. Wodzinski, 31; and Emery D. Cutlip, 33, all of Buckhannon, were each arrested Friday on one count of gross child neglect creating a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury, a felony.
According to the criminal complaint in the Upshur County Magistrate Clerk’s office filed by investigating officer Sgt. Marshall O’Connor with the Buckhannon Police Department and Mountain Lakes Drug & Violent Crime unit task force, the toddler ingested a potentially lethal mix of fentanyl and benzodiazepine medications on Jan. 1, 2022. The incident allegedly occurred while the child was in the care of Helene Wodzinski, the child’s aunt; Brittany Wodzinski, the child’s mother; and Emery Cutlip, the child’s father, the file says.
According to the report, at about 12:30 p.m. Jan. 1, 2022, the E911 Upshur County Communication Center received a call from Helene Wodzinski reporting that a two-year-old female child was unconscious, unresponsive, “barely breathing and burning up.” Wodzinski told the Comm Center she and the child’s mother, Brittany Wodzinski, were in a Florida Street residence with the child. She asked for an ambulance but then canceled the request, saying she and the child’s mother decided to take the child to St. Joseph’s Hospital Emergency Department themselves.
Once at the hospital, the child’s father, Cutlip, reportedly “denied that there was any chance of toxic ingestion,” according to the report, and medical personnel observed the child was in “severe distress” based on her vital signs.
“It was also reported that [the child] did not cry out when an IV needle was inserted and that [the child] did not have much of a response at all during insertion of the needle,” O’Connor wrote in the complaint.
The two-year-old had to be intubated to raise her oxygen intake to a “non-dangerous level,” and a urine sample indicated a positive result for fentanyl. The treating doctor listed the toddler’s diagnosis as fentanyl poisoning, and the child was then transported to J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown.
Once at Ruby Memorial, further testing confirmed the presence of fentanyl and alpha hydroxymidazolam, a metabolite for midazolam, a benzodiazepine medication utilized during anesthesia or for insomnia and severe agitation. Further testing revealed the presence of another benzodiazepine medication in the child’s system, Lorazepam, a short-acting medicine used to treat anxiety in adults 12 and over.
O’Connor wrote that based on his training and experience, Lorazepam is a Schedule IV controlled substance “consistently ‘cut’ with fentanyl and/or heroin and illegally advertised and sold as heroin.”
During his investigation, O’Connor discovered that none of the three individuals involved have prescriptions for midazolam, Lorazepam or fentanyl, a toxic mixture that’s illegally sold as heroin, the criminal complaint says. Helene Wodzinski, Brittany Wodzinski and Cutlip all told police they did not know how the child came in contact with fentanyl. However, Cutlip allegedly admitted he knew Helene’s residence on South Florida Street “to be frequented by individuals who use illegal drugs.”
The child’s mother, Brittany Wodzinski, allegedly told investigators that she failed to supervise the child, and the child’s aunt, Helene Wodzinski, allegedly admitted to “knowing there are drugs in and out of [her] house.”
“Due to the failure of parents and a guardian, [the child] suffered fentanyl poisoning that could have and appeared to have been close to causing the death of [the child],” O’Connor concluded in the report.
Upshur County Magistrate Alan Suder ordered that the three be held without bond.
The penalty for a conviction of gross child neglect is a fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $3,000, confinement in the state penitentiary for one to five years, or both.