Mother blamed in toddler’s overdose death will remain jailed
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A mother blamed for the overdose death of her toddler is expected to remain in prison after East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar requested that she be held in custody and her bond be revoked.
Whitney Ard was initially awarded a $50,000 bail Wednesday. She was also told to wear an ankle-functioning GPS device, ensuring her compliance with the bond conditions, court records show.
At the same time, Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has launched an internal investigation to understand how two-year-old Mitchell Robinson’s past suspected overdoses didn’t raise flags with investigators, and whether that oversight led to his death.
The agency’s top official, Marketa Garner Walters, confirmed Wednesday, August 3, DCFS is under the microscope of the Office of Inspector General. She also said DCFS leaders are already making adjustments, including policy changes and so-called personnel actions, as backlash mounts.
Alarms were raised when the boy’s mother, Ard, was charged with negligent homicide in East Baton Rouge Parish. Ard told investigators she discovered Mitchell cold to the touch and unresponsive at their Denova Street home on June 26. Healthcare officials were unable to revive him.
A coroner’s report later revealed Mitchell died from acute fentanyl toxicity and 14 mL of fentanyl was found in the child’s blood.
The 9News Investigators have learned the incident was neither the child’s first time being exposed to drugs, nor the mother’s first run-in with the law for drug possession.
Robinson was treated in April and June after arriving at a hospital showing signs of exposure to drugs and had only been revived when given Narcan, arrest documents state. Narcan is commonly used as a treatment for patients suffering from opioid overdoses.
Sources close to the case tell WAFB that a doctor who treated Mitchell reported both incidents to DCFS, but investigators wouldn’t move forward with the case without blood work confirming drug exposure. Days later that doctor called DCFS again with blood work showing fentanyl was in Mitchell’s system, sources said. Whether DCFS launched an investigation upon receiving that report remains unclear. However, in just a matter of days, Mitchell’s life ended.
Law enforcement also carried out a drug bust at the home in May this year. Both Ard and the boy’s father were arrested and booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. The mother bonded out on June 24, just two days before Mitchell’s death.
“It’s just a horrible tragedy to think about this poor child dying of an overdose like this,” said Casey Hicks, a spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Hicks explains Whitney was locked away in parish prison before coming up with bond a little over a month after being arrested. After being given a $48,500 dollar bond, Ard was able to get released after paying about $6,000.
Despite all the warning signs, Hicks says the case was never reported to the sheriff’s office. DCFS leaders did not immediately provide WAFB with copies of their policies or explain why cases like Mitchell’s would not be referred to law enforcement. However, Juvenile Court Judge Gail Grover offered insight into the process.
“It’s really a determination by the DCFS employee who’s responsible for responding to those reports,” said Grover.
While Grover could not speak directly about the facts of Mitchell’s case, she tells WAFB most abuse allegations are taken seriously and handled quickly. However, she also understands public outrage.
“Anytime you lose a child, it touches your heart. There are always questions on how could we have prevented this. You know, we collectively.” said Grover. “I understand the public not having information may not have as much faith, but I can assure them that the folks who work in the system are using the resources that they have in order to do the job.”
WAFB reached out to the Office of Inspector General about their investigation. Officials say they were unable to comment on the matter.
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