A Seattle woman and her husband were each charged this week with first-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of their infant daughter, who died in March 2019 from acute fentanyl intoxication, likely from ingesting her mother’s breast milk, according to King County prosecutors.
Samantha De Leo, 36, and her husband, Christopher Keadle, 44, were each charged with one count of first-degree manslaughter Monday, court records show. They each posted $100,000 bail on Tuesday, and it does not appear that either was booked into jail, according to jail and court records. De Leo and Keadle are scheduled to be arraigned April 27.
“The defendants had the means to provide formula, or hire outside help to care for their baby, but instead attempted to care for her while affected by heavy narcotics,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Emily Petersen wrote in charging papers. “While Ms. De Leo was obviously the conduit for directly exposing the baby to the drugs that killed her, Mr. Keadle was most often the person who procured the drugs for Ms. De Leo and without question aided in creating the environment and conditions under which the baby died. Both defendants are responsible for the death of their baby.”
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the infant as Ava Keadle and determined she died of acute fentanyl intoxication on March 24, 2019. Her death was ruled a homicide. She was not yet 3 months old at the time of her death.
“This is a tragedy. As these parents are grieving the loss of their daughter, we are in the process of evaluating the prosecutor’s decision to charge our clients. We look forward to vigorously defending this matter in court,” Seattle defense attorneys Robert Flennaugh II, who is representing De Leo, and Peter Offenbecher, who is representing Keadle, wrote in a joint email statement Thursday.
The criminal charges say Keadle and De Leo spent nearly $100,000 last year on cocaine and fake Oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl — and their phone records show they arranged for their West Seattle drug dealer to ship drugs to their hotel while they vacationed at Disneyland in California with their 6-year-old daughter in July, four months after Ava’s death, according to the charges.
Evidence obtained by Seattle police homicide detectives investigating Ava’s death led to a second investigation by narcotics detectives into the couple’s alleged drug dealer, court records show. David “Benny” Vasquez, 41, sold drugs to undercover Seattle police officers five times between October and January, charging papers say. He was arrested and charged in January with six counts of violating the uniform controlled substances act (VUCSA), money laundering and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, court records show. Vasquez remains jailed in lieu of $250,000 bail.
According to the charges against Keadle and De Leo:
De Leo called 911 around 12:20 p.m. on March 24, 2019 and reported that her infant daughter wasn’t breathing. She and her husband began CPR as Seattle police and fire department medics responded to their house in Seattle’s Seward Park neighborhood. The baby was rushed to Swedish Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead at 1:40 p.m.
Police learned De Leo had breastfed the baby in bed and both had fallen asleep. When De Leo woke, the baby was unresponsive.
In July, the results of toxicology tests showed the baby had traces of cocaine and fentanyl in her system when she died. Additional tests were ordered on the baby’s bile and in September, the tests returned positive for cocaine and fentanyl, indicating the infant ingested the drugs, most likely via breast milk, the charges say.
After the King County Medical Examiner’s Office was repeatedly unable to contact Keadle and De Leo, Seattle police initiated a death investigation.
Homicide detectives went to the couple’s home in October. Police say De Leo told them she had snorted cocaine at a friend’s birthday party a couple days before the baby’s death but denied knowing how the baby could have ingested fentanyl. Detectives later learned the birthday party had never occurred.
After interviewing the couple, detectives obtained a search warrant for their house and seized their cell phones. They found fentanyl, cocaine and hydrocodone residue on various items along with methadone tablets, meth, and other substances, the charges say.
In November, the medical examiner ruled the baby’s death a homicide by acute fentanyl intoxication.
Forensic examinations of the couple’s cell phones “yielded evidence of ongoing, heavy narcotics use,” with Keadle having nearly daily contact with Vasquez over a long period of time, a Seattle police homicide detective wrote in the charges. Together, Keadle and De Leo contacted Vasquez 63 times between March 23 and March 25, 2019, which included a text from De Leo on the evening of March 25, offering to drive to meet Vasquez:
“Obviously hurting really bad and just want to not feel for a bit,” the text read in part, according to the charges.
Between February and October 2019, the couple communicated with Vasquez a combined 2,062 times, both initiating and responding to phone calls and text messages, the charges say. During that time, Keadle and De Leo paid Vasquez at least $99,000 in checks, cash and electronic transfers.
Based on the investigation, the charges say detectives determined the couple was using large amounts of narcotics before and after their daughter’s death. Though the couple had baby formula in their house, De Leo chose to breastfeed her daughter after ingesting cocaine and fentanyl, the charges say.