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Couple indicted after infant dies from fentanyl overdose

The infant allegedly overdosed after finding a fentanyl pill on the floor of the couple's Alexandria home.

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Police have arrested a couple after an infant appears to have died from a fentanyl overdose in Fairfax County last year, and a grand jury has indicted the parents on three felony charges. 

According to a release from that Commonwealth's Attorney Steve Descano, 19-year-old Juan Oliva-Ruiz and 23-year-old Shantica Tillery have been charged with the death of their 11-month-old child. 

Descano says Tillery called for help after she noticed her child wasn't breathing in June 2022. Fairfax County Police responded to the Kings Garden Apartments in the Alexandria portion of the county, where they found the baby girl unresponsive in her crib. First responders took the infant to an area hospital for help, where the child later died. 

The medical examiner's toxicology report fund high levels of fentanyl in her system. Police believe the infant found a fentanyl pill on the floor of her parents' apartment, picked one up and ate it. 

"Fentanyl pills were haphazardly left in the residence, and the baby ingested one," Maj. Jeff Reiff of the Fairfax County Police said. "That was the cause of her death."

On Monday afternoon, Oliva-Ruiz and Tillery were both indicted the charges of involuntary manslaughter, child cruelty resulting in serious injury, and child abuse and neglect. If convicted, they face up to 25 years in prison.

"Horrific, horrific... that's a baby," said a neighbor who asked to remain anonymous. "If they see something, what are they going to do? Put it in their mouth." 

The couple has a second child, who has since been removed from the home. They're charged with abuse and neglect of that child.

A recent study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics found opioids to be the most common substance causing death among 731 American children under the age of five who died of poisoning between 2005 and 2018.”

In the DMV alone, there have been multiple babies and children who’ve died just in the last few months.

"We know that fentanyl overdoses are on the minds of our community members, and our office is working closely with law enforcement to prevent future tragedies like this one," CA Descano said, "The death of an innocent baby, in this case, Is unspeakably tragic."

Health officials recommend keeping any unused Opioid medications in the home out of reach of children, but they also suggest keeping Narcan -- as well as the Poison Control Hotline number (1-800-222-1222)-- close by. 

WATCH NEXT: How to administer Narcan during an overdose

Public Health Nurse Robin Harry goes through the steps to administer Narcan.

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