In a case that's tragic and heartbreaking all around, a mother has been accused of killing her six-week-old son by breastfeeding him after doing a large amount of methamphetamine. 26-year-old Maggie Jean Wortman had been charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment for the death of son, Michael Acosta, but yesterday prosecutors argued that she knowingly killed the boy and upped the charge to second-degree murder.
Last November in Loleta, California, Wortman noticed the baby wasn't breathing and took him to the hospital. He was pronounced dead and doctors found meth in his system. According to the Times-Standard, Wortman was arrested in January and her then 19-month-old daughter was put into state custody when she also tested positive for the drug.
Prosecutors told the New York Times that they decided to add the murder charge because Wortman demonstrated "conscious disregard" for her child by doing drugs and nursing. Deputy District Attorney Ben McLaughlin says:
"I think that her conduct is, or was, so intentionally reckless that it rises to the level of implied malice. And I think that a mother who is breast-feeding using the quantity of methamphetamine she did, I think that rises to a second-degree murder charge."
McLaughlin says that Wortman admitted to doing "a lot of meth" on the night before Michael died, and was warned by friends not to breastfeed.
Wortman's lawyer, M. C. Bruce, denies that she did meth shortly before the child's death, and says she's just an addict, not a cold-blooded killer. Even if contaminated breast milk killed Michael, it would be difficult to prove that Wortman understood that the drug could be transferred through breastfeeding and knew she could be harming her baby.
McLaughlin admits that he's hoping to make an example out of Wortman:
"Does it give one meth-addicted mother pause before she breast-feeds?" he asked. "As trite as it sounds, if it does, then it is a success."
Perhaps the case will help publicize the consequences of breastfeeding after using meth, but it probably won't get at the root of the problem. Whatever crime Wortman is found guilty of, her addiction is what ruined her life and may have ended her child's.
Image via mikeledray/Shutterstock.