(stltoday.com) - Lacey Kertz took Vicodin, morphine and Xanax pills and used methamphetamine in the hours before she nursed her son on the night of Oct. 27.
Carson Swyres, 22 months, had been fussy, so Kertz also gave him two melatonin pills to help him sleep. She told police she might have given him a childrenâ€™s Tylenol as well, but she couldnâ€™t remember.
And when she saw that the toddler had dumped a bottle of anti-depressants onto a bed, and she even pulled one of the pills from his lips, she didnâ€™t seek medical help.
The next day, Carson would be dead.
An autopsy found that he had died of a morphine overdose. He also had amphetamines, opiates and meth in his urine, according to toxicology reports from the St. Louis County Medical Examinerâ€™s Office, and he suffered from pneumonia.
On Wednesday, nearly seven months after Carsonâ€™s death, Jefferson County authorities arrested Kertz, 26, on a charge of child abuse or neglect resulting in death.
â€śIt seems like Iâ€™ve been waiting forever for something to finally be done,â€ť said Sheryl Sullivan, Carsonâ€™s paternal grandmother.
She and her mother, Judith Stadler, are relieved that Kertz has been charged.
â€śI finally feel like Carson is getting some justice,â€ť Stadler said.
Carson was found unresponsive on Oct. 28 in the mobile home park in House Springs where he lived with Kertz in the 5700 block of Brookstone Drive. Kertz told Jefferson County sheriffâ€™s investigators that she took the pills and meth about 24 to 36 hours before Carsonâ€™s death. She also said she allowed him to breastfeed the evening before he died as a â€ścomfortâ€ť to help him sleep, according to court documents. She said she didnâ€™t know if he had ingested any breast milk.
She also said Carson had held a bottle containing the anti-depressant Trazodone about 8 p.m. on Oct. 27. She had received it from a friend and it had previously contained Vicodin and morphine pills, which she does not have prescriptions for but which she took before Carson got the bottle.
First, she told authorities that Carson hadnâ€™t opened the bottle, then altered her story to say that he had dumped the pills out onto a bed, according to court documents. She later changed that story and said that she had seen a pill on Carsonâ€™s lips but had taken it away and placed her finger down his throat to force him to vomit, without success.
Kertz said that Carson started â€śwheezingâ€ť and â€śacting funnyâ€ť about 1:30 a.m. and that she held him until he fell asleep, according to court documents.
Kertzâ€™s urine tested positive for morphine and hydromorphine, court documents say.
Carson, his half-brother Caden and Kertz lived on-and-off for much of Carsonâ€™s life with Stadler and her husband in French Village in St. Francois County.
Family members including Sullivan and Stadler made several reports to child abuse hotlines alleging drug abuse by Kertz and unsafe living conditions when she lived away from Stadler, but they felt powerless to do more because Kertz would threaten to take the children and leave.
When state Childrenâ€™s Division employees investigated, they didnâ€™t find anything to merit removing the boys from Kertzâ€™s care, reports show. Cadenâ€™s father had sole legal custody of his son at the time of Carsonâ€™s death.
Childrenâ€™s Division reports prepared after Carsonâ€™s death describe the house on Brookstone Drive, including the beds, as covered in trash and say Kertz slept on an air mattress on the living-room floor with Carson. The toilets didnâ€™t appear to be working, and buckets of urine and feces, as well as rotting food, were found in the house.
â€śThe death of any child is a tragedy, and the Department of Social Services will continue to work closely with law enforcement and the courts on this case to seek justice,â€ť Brian Kinkade, director of the Missouri Department of Social Services, said in a prepared statement Wednesday. Social Services oversees the Childrenâ€™s Division.
Kertz was arrested at a home in the 2100 block of Valleyview Drive in Barnhart. She was ordered held without bail.