FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Sometimes the mother opened Adderall capsules and sprinkled the contents on her own food, she later told detectives.
Where she slept, with multiple layers of bedding, Fort Wayne detectives found more than 40 burn marks, evidence that the accused smoked and “passed out” on the bed.
On Oct. 14, 2021, her 15-month-old daughter stopped breathing on the floor next to the bed while watching cartoons.
Savannah Rose Brown was probably dead before her mother, Angela M. Brown, covered her with a blanket at 1:30 p.m. and claimed she was still breathing. At 3 p.m., Brown said her daughter had stopped breathing and was cold to the touch.
At the hospital, Brown, 42, submitted to an oral drug test administered by the Department of Child Services. The test was positive for fentanyl and nor-fentanyl, the same drug the Allen County Coroner said caused her daughter’s death.
Monday, Brown was charged with two counts of neglect of a dependent resulting in death, one a Level 1 felony, the highest in the state. The other, a level 3. She is due in court Tuesday morning.
When Brown took her daughter to the emergency room, the child’s body temperature was 86.6 degrees, leaving the forensic pathologist Dr. Scott Wagner to question whether the toddler was still breathing at 1:30 p.m. when Brown covered her with the blanket before going back to sleep, court documents said.
With the significant drop in body temperature, the victim “was most likely already deceased when Angela claimed she was still breathing,” according to the probable cause written by homicide detective Donald L. Lewis.
Lewis’s investigation led him to interview family friends who reported that Savannah often arrived at their home appearing “sedated,” but after she was with them for a few hours, “her level of awareness and energy level would seem to improve dramatically and she would start acting like a normal toddler,” Lewis wrote.
The child wasn’t the only person to die of a fentanyl overdose at Brown’s home. Austin Neal, 30, was found dead in her garage on Aug. 20, two months before Savannah died.
In cell phone messages between Brown and Neal, Brown described herself as a “pill popper” and offered to sell “percs” to Neal. She invited him over for drugs and to hang out. The “percs” she sold are often referred to as “fake percocets” that contain fentanyl and are manufactured to appear like the prescribed pharmaceutical pain pill, Percocet.
The investigation led to evidence that Brown was selling drugs as well as consuming them. On the day Savannah died, Brown was messaging people on her phone and directed “at least one client to an alternate provider just a few hours after the victim’s death,” court documents said.
Savannah’s life was different from the moment she was born. She was already addicted to drugs, doctors said. Savannah was born prematurely at 34 weeks with a birth weight of 4 pounds, 13 ounces. Brown’s medical records indicated a 10-year history of “almost daily” using oxycodone and a urine drug screen of Brown on Savannah’s birth was positive for amphetamines and oxycodone.
Savannah’s umbilical cord tested positive for oxycodone, court documents said.
Brown told medical staff she took one to two Percocets daily, with the occasional Adderall “by accident, along with smoking a pack of cigarettes each day.”
Savannah was admitted to the Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit at 27 hours of age and spent three weeks there due to the drug dependency that was foisted on her. When Brown left the hospital with Savannah, records showed that it was AMA – against medical advice – with staff expressing concern that Brown might harm herself and her baby.
At the hospital, Savannah was fed Neosure baby formula and not breast milk and that regimen continued after she was brought home from the hospital, according to Brown, court documents said.
Through forensics, Lewis determined that the child’s hair had been cut since she was born and the hair tested after she died was not the hair that had been exposed to in-utero drugs, court documents said. Therefore, the fentanyl, amphetamine and methamphetamine found in the child’s postmortem hair sample “was deposited there by consumption of these drugs after her birth.”
During her interview with Lewis, Brown denied administrating any drugs to her daughter other than over the counter pain medication or antibiotics prescribed by a doctor. She’d been able to quit her job, she said, and stay home full time with Savannah after her father had given her $200,000, court documents said.
But on the day Savannah died, detectives found an empty pill capsule on the top of the bed where Brown had been resting as her daughter was dying on the floor, court documents said. The capsule had been opened and emptied, but the two halves had been put back together, something a 15-month old child wouldn’t be able to do, according to court documents.
This capsule was found at the foot of the bed where Brown found her daughter’s body, not the floor, she told the responding officer.
Further testing of the child’s hair at a forensic lab determined that “not counting the Fentanyl overdose that caused her death, the victim had previously consumed Fentanyl, amphetamines and methamphetamines,” court documents said.
Friday, Brown was taken into custody around 3 p.m. At 10, p.m. the same day, she was released on $35,000 bond, according to the Allen County Jail.
The toddler’s death, ruled a homicide in June, is the 49th of 2021, tying last year’s record with 2016, the highest number of homicides in Fort Wayne.