Woman charged with felony neglect, abuse in 2-year-old’s death in Kansas City hotel
A 24-year-old woman is charged with felony abuse or neglect resulting in the death of a child after her 2-year-old son was found “blue and cold to the touch” in a Kansas City hotel room nearly one year ago.
Prosecutors charged Christina A. Gardner, of Independence, with endangering the welfare of her son, identified as O.G. in court documents, resulting in his death. She is also accused of endangering two of her other children — all were under age 4 at the time — by placing them in an environment “where illegal drugs were present and accessible,” according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in Jackson County.
The charges brought against Gardner apparently stem from a police investigation that gained momentum in the summer based on a finding by the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office that fentanyl and methamphetamine were in the 2-year-old’s system when he died.
Other recent developments include a September report by the Kansas City Crime Lab that allegedly shows items gathered as evidence in the hotel room tested positive for heroin and fentanyl.
According to court documents, Kansas City police first responded to a medical call in the hotel room at the Quality Inn & Suites at 1051 N. Cambridge Ave. on April 23 around 12:30 p.m..
Police officers and paramedics arrived on scene to find Gardner in the hallway with her two other children. Her son was pronounced dead on scene.
Inside the room, police found drug paraphernalia to including baggies containing suspected narcotics, syringes and Narcan, a medicine used for emergency opioid treatment.
In a statement to police, Gardner allegedly said she had been staying in the hotel with her kids that night. She said a friend arranged a room for them and two other adults as she was without a place to stay.
On the last night she knew him to be alive, she said O.G. was on the bed with her other two children. She said she had given pizza to her 4-year-old, who was eating when she fell asleep alongside them. Her 4-year-old later said during a forensic interview that he fed O.G. pizza that night because the toddler “was hungry.”
After going outside to smoke the next morning, Gardner returned to find everyone awake except O.G. Shortly before noon, she told them she “saw that he was blue and cold to the touch” and asked others to call 911.
She also allegedly told police “everyone was doing drugs except her” at the hotel the night before.
In May, roughly four weeks later, the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s office issued an autopsy report saying O.G. died of asphyxia due to choking and ruled the event an accident.
But the autopsy also listed “Acute Fentanyl Intoxication” as a contributing factor, according to court documents.
A toxicology report showed the 2-year-old had fentanyl in his system at levels “associated with comatose and fatal case reports.” The test also showed the presence of amphetamines and methamphetamine.
A Jackson County pathologist told detectives the drugs “would certainly” be fatal or contribute “to the death or the choking incident.” He said O.G. was most likely alive when the pizza was placed in his mouth, citing it being “inhaled deep into the airway,” but also noted the child was exposed to fentanyl “shortly before his death.”
Witnesses, interviewed by Kansas City police detectives with the homicide unit, said they were with Gardner the day before her son died. They said she had gone that day to another hotel in Lee’s Summit to pick up her children.
They also told detectives that Gardner had been using drugs, including PCP and meth, and that she had asked about where to get fentanyl.
Two people said at one point they were watching her three kids at the Kansas City hotel when she abruptly left for roughly an hour-and-a-half. They thought she had gone out to smoke but learned she left the area, and at one point the two called Gardner to tell her “the kids were hungry.”
“She told him to tell the kids to ‘hold their stomachs,’” a Kansas City detective wrote in charging documents for Gardner.
Another witness told police that fentanyl was being kept in the bathroom and that others present that night felt “weird” about having the kids in such an environment.
At some point during the investigation, Gardner allegedly contacted a Kansas City detective and asked that her son’s body be checked for exposure to fentanyl. She allegedly said at the time that “everyone uses it” and that she “believes someone gave her son/victim Fentanyl,” according to court documents.