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Grandmother accused of killing baby by giving him methadone

A grandmother has been charged with killing her 1-year-old grandson and injuring a granddaughter by rubbing methadone on their gums, Baltimore police say.

Towanda Reaves, 50, was arrested Thursday and charged with murder and multiple assault charges. Both grandchildren were under the age of 2.

Police say the investigation began July 5, when officers responded about 4:15 a.m to the 1900 block of N. Forest Park Ave. in Franklintown, where paramedics were trying to resuscitate Reaves' grandson.

Reaves told detectives that she had put her three grandchildren to bed at 8 p.m. and checked on them about 2 a.m.

She told police she could hear her grandson snoring. When she got out of bed about 4 a.m. to turn off the air conditioning, the boy wasn't breathing, she told detectives.

She took him to the living room, where his father was sleeping on a couch, then called 911. Paramedics took the baby to Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 4:52 a.m. Police found no visible signs of trauma.

Reaves stayed to watch the other two children when the ambulance took her grandson. About 2 p.m., another grandchild in her care, a girl born three months after the boy, was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit, Sinai Hospital reported.

The girl seemed numb but responded when doctors checked to see whether she could feel pain. A toxicology test showed methadone in her system, police said.

Methadone is a narcotic used to treat pain and opioid dependency, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is often prescribed to treat heroin addiction.

From 1999 to 2005, poisoning deaths linked to methadone increased from 4 percent of all poisoning deaths to 14 percent, the CDC reported. In Maryland, methadone deaths surged from 7 in 1999 to 145 in 2005.

Baltimore homicide detectives launched a criminal investigation as a result of the Franklintown incident and learned that Reaves had turned over an empty bottle of methadone to medical staff. Detectives said Reaves acknowledged rubbing methadone on the gums of both children.

On Wednesday, the office of the chief medical examiner cited methadone intoxication as the cause of her grandson's death.

On Thursday, members of the Warrant Apprehension Task Force took Reaves into custody in the 600 block of Reservoir St. without incident. She was charged with second-degree murder, child abuse resulting in death, multiple counts of first- and second-degree assault, first-degree child abuse causing serious injury, and reckless endangerment.

No one answered the door at Reaves' second-floor Franklintown apartment. Neighbors said Reaves was pleasant but distant and that she was watching the children play in a kiddie pool hours before the boy died.

No attorney was listed in court records, and a phone number for Reaves' address could not be found. Court records show that Reaves was found guilty of possession of a controlled substance in 2007 but do not specify her sentence.

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