SALMON, Idaho – An Idaho woman who prosecutors say caused her baby daughter to overdose on methamphetamine has been sentenced to a dozen years in prison.
Heather Elam, 26, of Salmon pleaded guilty in September to voluntary manslaughter. On Thursday, she tearfully apologized to her family and “especially” to the baby named Serenity, the Post Register reported.
“I need a lot of treatment,” she told 7th Judicial District Judge Alan Stephens. “I want to grow and learn and get therapy.”
According to court records, Elam called the Lemhi County Sheriff’s Office in January 2015 to report that her baby was unresponsive. First responders were unable to resuscitate the child, so they took the child to a local hospital in Salmon, where the infant later died.
A medical examiner later found a lethal dose of methamphetamine in the child, in the child’s bottles and in some children’s cough medicine.
Investigators found that Elam, in the hours before her baby’s death, had texted her mother expressing frustration with Serenity, perhaps for crying. The messages included one in which Elam wrote: “Come get this child. I will throw her out. She won’t quit.”
A toxicologist determined Serenity died from a meth overdose that was likely administered several hours before the child’s death.
Elam’s attorney asked the judge for a sentence of probation, saying his client was now clean and sober, a much different woman than the one from when her baby died.
But Lemhi County Prosecutor Bruce Withers said prison was necessary: “Anything less than prison means no consequences if you meth your kid to death.”
Judge Stephens said he initially planned a more severe sentence than the one he handed down, but his decision was tempered by Elam’s remorse, acceptance of responsibility and completion of a substance abuse program.
“I’m a father of seven and a grandfather of 25 and cannot imagine this crime; it breaks my heart,” Stephens said.
After the hearing, Withers said achieving the prison term he had sought was no victory given the nature of the case.
“It underscores the poison that meth is and why we need to continually try to stamp it out,” he said.
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