Newborn’s parents accused of giving her drugs to mask heroin withdrawal

A Utah couple is accused of giving their newborn daughter crushed-up pills to mask her withdrawal symptoms after she was born addicted to drugs.

Lacey Dawn Christenson, 26, and Colby Glen Wilde, 29, both of Elk Ridge, each face multiple drug charges, as well as charges of child abuse and child endangerment. According to the Utah County Sheriff's Office, Christenson used heroin and prescription pain pills heavily during her pregnancy, leading their daughter to be born addicted to drugs in April.

"(Christenson and Wilde) admitted that, after their daughter was born on April 9, later that same day, Wilde applied some of the crushed Suboxone pills to the infant's gums while nurses and other medical staff were out of the room," the Sheriff's Office said in a news release. "(They) told investigators they talked to friends about how to mask signs of drug dependence in an infant, and that they discussed this issue with each other."

Suboxone is a medication used to treat pain, as well as to treat addiction to opiates.

Utah Valley Hospital, where the girl was born, released a statement to Fox 13 in Salt Lake City, in which officials said newborn safety is a top priority.

"The hospital's team of specially trained caregivers closely monitors each newborn for signs of any difficulty. If there is a known history of drug use by a mother, then her baby will be evaluated and if necessary, receive treatment for withdrawal symptoms," the hospital's statement read. "The hospital's social work team will also contact DCFS (Utah Division of Child and Family Services) immediately if illicit drug use took place during the pregnancy. When a mother does not disclose a history of drug use and her baby has no signs or symptoms of difficulty, then the hospital proceeds with its established care processes.

“While the hospital does everything possible to keep newborns safe, no assumptions are made about a mother’s personal history. Parents have the responsibility to disclose anything that might jeopardize their newborn’s health.”

Officials with the Sheriff's Office said in the news release that investigators found Suboxone, in both solid and crushed pill form, in the couple's home while executing a search warrant June 28. They also said they found drug paraphernalia throughout the house, including next to the baby's bassinet and next to a child's sippy cup.

Besides the newborn, Christenson’s other three children, ages 8, 4 and 2, lived in the house with the couple, the Sheriff’s Office said. DCFS became involved in the case, having all four children tested for drugs.

All four children tested positive for methamphetamine, the Sheriff’s Office said. The infant girl also tested positive for heroin and morphine.

"I don't have any doubt that Colby and Lacey love their kids," Sgt. Spencer Cannon, with the Utah County Sheriff's Office, told Fox 13. "They're addicts right now, with serious addiction problems, and they're not in a good place to be taking care of themselves even, let alone anybody else."

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DCFS contacted the father of Christenson's oldest child, who took custody of the boy. He did not want the siblings to be separated, and case workers approved him to have custody of all four children, investigators said.

The investigation into Christenson and Wilde began June 26 when police in Spanish Fork were called to Walmart, where employees say they saw Wilde take several items from the store’s shelves and take them to customer service, returning them for a cash card.

When loss prevention workers confronted Wilde, who was carrying his then-two-month-old daughter in a car seat, he ran, slamming the girl’s seat into a pillar and dropping her several times, investigators said.

Investigators said Wilde handed the baby to a stranger before fleeing in his car. He was stopped by Utah County deputies in a nearby parking lot, the Sheriff's Office said.

Christenson, who was in Walmart with her older children, was taken into custody on an outstanding warrant at that time.