An Alabama woman whose toddler grandson died of a methadone overdose while in her care last year has been charged in his death.
Michelle Lee Light, 44, of Sylvan Springs, is charged with chemical endangerment of a child resulting in death, according to Jefferson County Jail records. She remained in jail Tuesday in lieu of $500,000 bail.
Journey Ray Layne Dorman, 19 months, died July 21, 2018, while Light was babysitting. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office officials said the boy was found unresponsive shortly after 2 p.m. that day.
By 3:27 p.m., he was dead.
AL.com reported that investigators initially thought the boy might have gotten into rat poison at Light’s home. His autopsy showed that he instead died of methadone toxicity.
Capt. David Agee, a Sheriff's Office spokesman, said Monday during a news conference that Light left the drug, which is typically used to combat opioid addiction, where the baby could reach it and swallow it.
"Worse than that, when medical personnel arrived, she failed to tell them of the possibility that he ingested this substance," Agee said. "That clearly is significant to me. If they had known, maybe Narcan might have revived the child. If medical personnel knew what the child had ingested, they might have known what to treat the child with."
Watch Jefferson County Sheriff's Office spokesman Capt. David Agee speak about the death of Journey Dorman below.
Narcan, or naloxone, is a drug that is used to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. An opioid antagonist, the drug binds to a person's opioid receptors and blocks the effects of the opioid, including when the user's breathing has stopped or slowed to dangerous levels.
"Journey Dorman suffered a tragic death due to the recklessness of the person who was supposed to protect him from danger," Agee said.
A warrant for Light’s arrest was issued after a yearlong investigation and deputies had been looking for her since July 10. She was arrested Sunday during a traffic stop.
Agee told reporters that other members of Journey’s family have been cooperative.
"They have always wanted justice for this child from the very beginning," Agee said.
Journey's father, Brandon Dorman, told AL.com that the family had long had a strained relationship with Light, who had prior arrests involving drugs. At the time of the baby's death, she appeared to be doing better and wanted to have her grandchildren in her life.
Both Dorman and his wife, Jennifer, had to work the day of Journey’s death, so they left him and one of his two older brothers, Lennon, in her care for two hours. Another brother, Lyric, was with Brandon Dorman’s parents for the day.
Before the two hours were up, Jennifer Dorman received a phone call about Journey becoming ill. Paramedics were working on her son when she arrived.
He was pronounced dead a short time later at Children's of Alabama, AL.com reported.
Brandon Dorman said like investigators, he and his wife initially believed their son may have ingested rat poison. Google searches showed, however, that his symptoms didn’t fit.
Then the autopsy results came in.
"My jaw dropped to the floor,'' Dorman said. "It made me sick to my stomach. I literally felt a pit inside of my stomach. I just felt numb."
Numbness was quickly replaced with anger.
"If she had told them … there's the possibility it could have saved his life, but she had the paramedics going in a totally different direction," he told AL.com. "She was saving herself over her grandchild when 99 percent of people would give their life for their grandchild or child."
Dorman said Journey was the happiest baby he’d ever seen. Aside from the boy’s first few moments of life in the delivery room, he could barely recall his son crying.
“We always referred to him as our angel baby,” Dorman said. “That’s kind of ironic because now he is our guardian angel.”
The grieving father said his son’s death has taught him to not take a moment for granted.
"Do not waste a day of loving your children, because we never know when the last day will be," Dorman told AL.com. "In our case, we didn't have another chance to make up for anything that was missed, like a promised trip to the zoo or anything else. Love them and spend as much time with them as you can."
Agee also indicated that Journey’s death should serve as a lesson.
"What we're saying is: This death did not have to happen," Agee said. "What were saying to drug users: You may put yourself at risk, but you will not put children at risk. If you do, you can expect to be arrested and charged."
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