A California mother has been charged with murder after she gave birth to a stillborn child who tested positive for methamphetamine.
Chelsea Cheyenne Becker, 25, who gave birth at a Hanford, California hospital in September, was arrested by police on a felony charge of murder on Tuesday following a coroner’s report that indicated the fetus had tested positive for methamphetamine.
Police say Becker’s stillborn fetus tested for “five times” the toxic levels of methamphetamine in its system required to kill someone.
“Circumstances arose which made medical professionals and other involved parties believe the stillborn fetus may have been drug exposed while the mother was pregnant,” a police press release stated.
Authorities then learned Becker had a past history of alleged substance abuse and negligent parenting. The California mother previously had three different children removed from her care due to her alleged methamphetamine abuse, officials said.
“She’s been arrested for drug use in the past and this isn’t the first child that would have been taken, if the child was alive, for drug-related issues from Ms. Becker,” sergeant Justin Vallin, a spokesperson for Hanford Police Department, told Oxygen.com.
And Becker, law enforcement said, admitted to using methamphetamine as recently as three days before giving birth to the stillborn fetus in September.
“It is disturbing because of the continued acts and continued path that has happened this entire time,” he added. “The toxicity levels in the stillborn baby when they tested were over five times the toxic level [for an adult]. For an infant or for a fetus, it’s even worse.”
It’s unclear if Becker’s previous children also tested positive for methamphetamine at birth or whether they were removed from Becker’s care solely due to her alleged substance abuse issues, he said. The police spokesperson estimated her three living children were all under 10 years old.
“This case is a very hard case for us to deal with as well as a disturbing case. We don’t get a lot of these cases,” Vallin added.
But Vallin did note his department had investigated a similar case last year. Adora Perez, 29, was booked for second-degree murder in 2018 after a stillborn she gave birth to also tested positive for methamphetamine, according to separate court documents. Like Becker, Perez had admitted to authorities she had used methamphetamine two and a half days prior to giving birth.
“The doctor believed the baby died from extensive drug use by Perez,” court documents stated. “Based on physical signs the baby exhibited, a doctor estimated that the baby died between 12 and 18 hours earlier.”
In that case, doctors noted the child’s placenta had detached from the uterine lining, which is typical in mothers who are meth users. Perez pleaded no contest to manslaughter.
Becker was arraigned on Wednesday where she pleaded not guilty. She’s scheduled back in court for a preliminary hearing on Nov. 19, according to court records.
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