An 11-year-old Port Orchard girl overdosed on fentanyl and died in May, and authorities allege the girl’s mother had been smoking opioid pills with her, leading to her death.
A witness named in court documents charging Stephanie Ann Melton, 40, with controlled substance homicide for the death of her daughter, Riley Melton, said that Melton justified using narcotics with the girl.
According to the witness, Melton said she is the girl’s mother and preferred Riley use drugs with her so she could keep an eye on her.
Melton pleaded not guilty to the charge at a hearing Friday afternoon, at which prosecutors told Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Tina Robinson they made a plea offer to Melton, which will remain open until Dec. 30. If Melton chooses to reject the offer, prosecutors said they would file additional charges — and aggravators — that would dramatically increase Melton’s prison sentence if she is found guilty.
Police and medics were called May 6 at about 3 a.m. to Melton’s apartment at 145 block of Lippert Drive, where Riley was found unresponsive and not breathing, according to a Port Orchard police investigation.
Melton told officers Riley had been sitting in a recliner watching TV and eating candy and appeared to be sleeping. However, Melton said she brushed Riley’s hair away and saw her lips had turned blue and she was not breathing. Melton then started administering CPR, according to court documents.
Riley was taken to a hospital where tests found the presence of fentanyl in her system. Medical personnel could not detect brain activity. On May 9, Riley was declared officially brain dead.
On May 13 the Kitsap County Coroner’s Office pathologist performed an autopsy on Riley and determined the cause of death was an overdose on fentanyl, but it was unknown at that time how the fentanyl entered her system. Riley’s manner of death was listed as “undetermined,” according to charging documents.
After Riley was found unresponsive, a witness gave a recorded statement to investigators, saying she went to Melton’s apartment around midnight, where it was common for her to hang out with Melton and smoke Percocets.
Percocets are prescription pain pills that are increasingly counterfeited by drug traffickers who fortify the pills with the powerful synthetic painkiller fentanyl, a substance blamed for a spike in overdoses. A witness in the case referred to the pills Melton allegedly smoked with Riley as “street perks,” that is, counterfeit percocet pills.
While at the apartment, the witness said that she, Melton, a man and Riley smoked percocet pills together.
“Stephanie broke up the blue pills, held the foil and worked the lighter while (the witness) and Riley took multiple hits of the pill,” a detective wrote. “(The witness) stated she had gotten mad at Stephanie before for allowing Riley to smoke but was told she’s the mother and would rather have her do it at home rather than do it on the street or somewhere she can’t be watched.”
Investigators then began reading Facebook messages from Melton and others, which showed Melton seeking more pills and on May 8 asking the witness if she was “keeping things to yourself.”
“I’m just saying keep to yourself no matter what you understand,” Melton wrote, according to court documents.
In a message to the man who was alleged to have been smoking the pills the night Riley overdosed, Melton wrote that the witness “has to take things to her grave cuz I will deny everything,” according to court documents.
Melton was booked Thursday night into the Kitsap County Jail. Her bail was set at $100,000.
Melton wore a smock to her video arraignment Friday afternoon, typically worn by jail inmates who are lodged in single-occupant “crisis cells,” and shook her head when Deputy Prosecutor Phil Bacus read the allegations to Judge Robinson.
Bacus said that Melton was an “extreme risk to the community” and showed a disregard to the consequences. “Now we are here because of the consequences,” and requested bail be increased to $750,000.
Robinson told Melton she was “quite shocked at the behavior alleged here” and approved Bacus’ bail request, saying the allegations showed Melton “can’t make good choices.”
Bacus also detailed the charges that prosecutors planned to file if Melton rejected their plea offer, however Bacus did not say what sentence prosecutors were offering in exchange for a guilty plea.
Some of the charges prosecutors would add were distribution of drugs to a person under the age of 18 and first-degree criminal mistreatment. Bacus also said prosecutors would include “aggravators” on those charges. If convicted, the “aggravators” would allow a judge to sentence Melton to a prison term above the maximum sentence set in state law.