Friday, October 10, 2003

Mom indicted
in ‘ice’ death

A Kaneohe woman's infant died
from crystal meth poisoning

A grand jury indicted a Kaneohe woman yesterday for allegedly causing the death of her 2-day-old infant through methamphetamine poisoning.

The indictment is the first in Hawaii in which a mother is accused of killing her baby by smoking "ice" while pregnant or breast feeding.

Tayshea Aiwohi had allegedly been smoking methamphetamine days before giving birth to a boy, Treyson Aiwohi, and after the baby was born, prosecutors said yesterday. The infant died July 17, 2001, two days after he was born at Kaiser Hospital.

Prosecutors asked the court to set bail at $50,000.

Aiwohi could not be reached for comment and a bench warrant was issued for her arrest.

Autopsy results showed Treyson Aiwohi died of the toxic effects of methamphetamine, said First Deputy Medical Examiner William W. Goodhue Jr.

The baby had 0.4 micrograms per milliliter -- four times the minimum toxic level of methamphetamine for adults -- in his system at the time of the autopsy and 0.2 micrograms per milliliter -- two times the toxic level of amphetamines. The drug could have been introduced into the infant's system either before or after birth, such as through breast milk, he said.

There was no dispute Aiwohi had been using ice prior to and during her pregnancy and that she was a recovering addict, said attorney Mark Worsham, who represented Tayshea Aiwohi during a Child Protective Services investigation into her son's death.

"The big question was: Did this baby die of exposure or withdrawal?" he said.

The autopsy did not establish when the baby had been exposed to the drug.

Worsham said he had information that indicated Aiwohi was nursing in the hospital and neither the staff nor state Child Protective Services stopped her.

"I'm not trying to blame them but this is something that fell through the cracks at a number of levels," Worsham said.

Aiwohi made the mistake of using ice in the first place but after the baby was tested and found to have been exposed to the drug, he was still released to his mother to go home within days of birth, Worsham said.

"To me, it doesn't show a whole lot of concern that there was a danger," he said.

Patient privacy laws prevent the hospital from commenting specifically on the Aiwohi case, said Kaiser spokeswoman Jan Kagehiro. However, if hospital staff suspects drug use by a pregnant mother and the baby tests positive for drugs, CPS would be called, she said.

If CPS doesn't remove the child and the mother wants to take the baby home, the hospital cannot override the mother's decision, Kagehiro said.

CPS officials could not be reached for comment.

Worsham said the CPS investigation is closed and Aiwohi's four children, who were born before Treyson, have been returned to her. She had another child after Treyson and that child has never been the subject of a CPS action, he said.

Aiwohi, now a drug counselor, did well under court supervision and went "over and above" what the Family Court had required her to do, Worsham said.

City prosecutor Peter Carlisle called the Aiwohi case "a unique use of the manslaughter statute."

"It's just a new set of facts but it addresses what is a growing concern and that is children exposed to drugs at a very early age and children neglected by drug-addicted parents."

The case is similar to one that ended last month in Riverside, Calif., where Amy Leanne Prien was convicted of murder after her three-month-old son died of an overdose of methamphetamine contained in her breast milk. Prien faces 23 years to life in prison when sentenced Oct. 30.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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