Father to Stand Trial for Child Endangerment in Fentanyl Overdose Death of Infant Daughter

San Jose father, David Castro, will face trial on a felony child endangerment charge following the fentanyl overdose death of his infant daughter, Phoenix. The decision was made by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Paul Bernal at the conclusion of Castro’s preliminary hearing. Deputy District Attorney Maria Gershenovich clarified that Castro was not being charged with murder, but rather for keeping his daughter in a toxic and dangerous environment that ultimately led to her demise.

During the three-day hearing, prosecution witnesses, including a toxicologist and police detectives, presented evidence of fentanyl and methamphetamine found in the baby’s blood and Castro’s apartment. Judge Bernal ruled that there was sufficient cause to believe Castro was guilty of the crime and denied a defense request for his release from jail pending trial. An arraignment is scheduled for March 11, and if convicted of child endangerment and other enhancements, Castro could face up to 10 years in prison.

The arrest and prosecution of Castro come amidst a surge in fentanyl-related deaths in the Bay Area, including five infants since 2020. Dr. Mehdi Koolaee, the Santa Clara County coroner who conducted the autopsy on baby Phoenix, testified that he had never encountered fentanyl or methamphetamine in a baby before. The manner in which the baby ingested the fentanyl remains unknown, as neither Koolaee nor the prosecutor provided an explanation during the hearing.

San Jose Police Detective Mike Harrington testified that Castro tested negative for drugs on the day of Phoenix’s death. However, in a video of police interrogating Castro, he admitted to knowing how to manipulate drug tests for social workers while he had custody of the baby. Castro’s defense lawyer, Mishya Singh, presented photos and videos showing Castro’s affectionate interactions with his daughter, emphasizing that he loved her despite his own addiction struggles.

The tragic death of Phoenix and the subsequent revelation that the child welfare agency, Santa Clara County’s Department of Family and Children’s Services, had sent her home despite the parents’ history of drug addiction and warnings from a social worker, has raised concerns about the agency’s practices. Phoenix’s two older siblings had been removed from the parents’ custody a year earlier due to severe neglect, and little progress had been made to reunite them with their parents.

Singh suggested that Phoenix may have died from accidental smothering while sleeping on the couch with her father, a contention refuted by the coroner’s testimony. Singh also posited that if the baby did die from a drug overdose, her mother, Emily De La Cerda, who was living in a drug and mental health rehab facility at the time, may be responsible. However, there is no evidence to support this claim.

The defense lawyer also placed blame on the child welfare agency for not adequately informing Castro about the potential harm of drug residue in the home. Singh argued that CPS could have insisted on a thorough cleaning of the house to ensure the baby’s safety. Gershenovich, the prosecutor, countered that Castro had the sole responsibility of caring for Phoenix and had failed in his duty of care.

CrimeDoor
Author: CrimeDoor

1 Response

  1. While it is tragic that an infant lost her life due to a fentanyl overdose, it is important to consider the circumstances surrounding the father’s actions. It is possible that David Castro was unaware of the presence of fentanyl in his home or that he did not intentionally put his child in harm’s way. In cases like these, it is crucial to thoroughly investigate and determine the level of negligence or intent before charging someone with a felony. It is also worth considering if there were any external factors that contributed

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