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Father gets 3-4 years; Baby died from antihistamine.



Byline: Scott J. Croteau

WORCESTER - The parents of an 11-month-old girl who died almost five years ago as a result of ingesting an antihistamine antihistamine (ăn'tĭhĭs`təmēn), any one of a group of compounds having various chemical structures and characterized by the ability to antagonize the effects of histamine.  clutched hands and wept as they were sentenced yesterday in court on charges stemming from the baby's death.

Christopher M. Watt, 37, dabbed tears from his eyes before court started as Julia Lynn Herne, 35, sat next to him trembling.

As Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey T. Travers read the facts of the case surrounding the December 2005 death of their child, Courtney Watt, the couple began to cry. Supporters of the couple listened intently.

Mr. Watt pleaded guilty in Worcester Superior Court to charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment of a child. Judge James R. Lemire sentenced him to serve three to four years in Walpole state prison on the involuntary manslaughter charge. Mr. Watt, who, according to state records is a registered Level 3 sex offender In Minnesota, a Level 3 Sex Offender is a convicted sex offender who has been determined to be of a high risk of re-offending. One example of a Level 3 Sex Offender is Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr., the man who kidnapped and murdered Dru Sjodin. , received a sentence of three years' probation on the reckless endangerment of a child charge. The probation will begin after his prison sentence.

Julia Lynn Herne, 35, the child's mother, was sentenced to five years' probation after pleading guilty to reckless endangerment of a child. The involuntary manslaughter charge was dropped. Both of them must undergo random drug tests, remain drug-free and enroll in substance abuse treatment.

After the sentencing, Mr. Watt kissed Ms. Herne one more time and was led away in handcuffs. She joined the group of supporters who began to mock Mr. Travers before they were told to leave the courtroom.

According to Mr. Travers, the couple's child was found unresponsive shortly after 6 a.m. Dec. 13, 2005, inside the family's June Street home. Both now live at 5 Almont Ave.

Police and medical officials went to the home after Ms. Herne called 911. The child was not breathing and was taken to St. Vincent Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The child died as a result of "acute diphenhydramine diphenhydramine /di·phen·hy·dra·mine/ (di?fen-hi´drah-men) a potent antihistamine, used as the hydrochloride salt in the treatment of allergic symptoms and for its anticholinergic, antitussive, antiemetic, antivertigo, and antidyskinetic  intoxication," authorities said. The drug diphenhydramine, an over-the-counter antihistamine sold under brand names that include Benadryl, is primarily used for the treatment of allergic reactions and also for treating insomnia.

Ms. Herne told investigators in 2006 that she was working at a dispensary dispensary: see clinic.  at the time of her daughter's death and had taken 50 Benadryl capsules home from work to induce sleep. According to the prosecutor, Ms. Herne told police that she kept the medication on a nightstand night·stand  
n.
See night table.
 in the bedroom of the home she and Mr. Watt shared with their daughter.

The couple were abusing prescription drugs at the time and were addicted to oxycodone oxycodone /oxy·co·done/ (-ko´don) an opioid analgesic derived from morphine; used in the form of the hydrochloride and terephthalate salts.

ox·y·co·done
n.
, according to authorities. During their investigation, authorities learned that a bottle of Benadryl in the June Street home was spilled on one occasion and that Ms. Herne later said that at least one of the capsules was still missing. That occurred about a week before the child died. Mr. Watt was out of work at the time and primary caregiver for the infant.

Ms. Herne worked a double shift before her daughter's death and at one point came home after receiving a call from Mr. Watt. He was distraught. She came home and saw that their daughter had a dry mouth and her hand was moving in a spastic spastic /spas·tic/ (spas´tik)
1. of the nature of or characterized by spasms.

2. hypertonic, so that the muscles are stiff and movements awkward.


spas·tic
adj.
1.
 manner. She eventually went back to work.

Ms. Herne came home early in the morning. The child was already in bed. Ms. Herne went to sleep.

The prosecutor said the child died after ingesting more than one capsule of the drug. At no time did Mr. Travers say Mr. Watt gave the drug to the child, but noted the pills were on the floor and that the child could crawl. Ms. Herne's lawyer, Peter L. Ettenberg, and Mr. Watt's lawyer, Jennifer L. Ginsburg, argued for probation for their clients. They submitted letters of support for both.

Mr. Ettenberg said that during the past two and a half years, Ms. Herne had turned her life around, continued to work hard and attended AA meetings and became an AA sponsor. Without Mr. Watt, she would become the sole caretaker of her son, he said. The loss of her daughter will stay with her, he told the judge.

Ms. Ginsburg said Mr. Watt admitted he had a drug problem, but he continues to attend AA meetings and speaks to young children who have abused drugs. He continues to be a good father to his stepson, she said.

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Julia Lynn Herne and Christopher M. Watt react to proceedings yesterday in court.

PHOTOG pho·tog  
n. Informal
A person who takes photographs, especially as a profession; a photographer.
: T&G Staff/CHRISTINE PETERSON
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 26, 2010
Words:757
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