Original article no longer available
The Tri-city Herald
Published Tuesday, December 11th, 2007
JOHN TRUMBO HERALD STAFF WRITER
HERMISTON — A young Hermiston mother who allegedly doped her month-old daughter’s bottle with painkiller and antidepressants pleaded innocent to manslaughter Monday.
During Michelle Leann Barry’s court appearance, a Umatilla County Circuit Court judge reduced her bail to $200,000.
Barry, 21, has been in jail since her arrest Nov. 15 on the felony charge of first-degree manslaughter in connection with the March 29 death of her baby, Jacqueline.
The hearing revealed that Barry’s parents knew about their daughter’s previous problems as a young mom with a different baby daughter and turned her in to authorities.
Judge Garry Reynolds also heard investigators’ tape recordings of the defendant allegedly admitting she ground up medications and dissolved the powder in a baby bottle, which she fed to her daughter in the early morning hours of March 29.
Reynolds heard testimony for two hours before reducing her bail from $500,000. He set a tentative trial date for the week after New Year’s Day.
Barry’s court-appointed attorney, Doug Fischer of Pendleton, said his client probably will agree to delaying the trial so he can review nearly 1,000 pages of the prosecution’s evidence.
Testifying for the defense, Kevin Barry said he and his wife made an unannounced visit to their daughter’s home in Hermiston in early 2005 to see their infant granddaughter, Riley.
Their daughter was asleep, the baby was in a urine-soaked bed and clothes, and there was no food for the baby in the house. They called authorities.
Kevin Barry said they ended up taking custody of their granddaughter, but only so their daughter could work on her problems and someday be reunited with the baby.
He said his daughter has struggled to improve as a working, single mom and was making good progress until the death of her second child last March.
The defendant’s sister, Stephanie Barry, who is a sergeant and recruiter for the U.S. Marines, told the court Michelle Barry could live with her and her boyfriend in Vancouver while going through the trial. There are no children in their home, she said.
Trish Hilt of Umatilla County Child Protective Services said Michelle Barry’s history as a mother shows her to be “a risk and threat to children.” Hilt said that assessment was based on caseworkers’ reports involving the defendant’s two infant daughters since 2005.
The initial cause of death for Jacqueline was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but Leonard Stokoe, a detective with the Hermiston Police Department, said a follow-up toxicology test showed evidence of lethal amounts of medications in the baby’s blood.
Stokoe said the doctor who did the autopsy told him “he had never seen this high a level of drugs in a baby in his entire career.” The amount of OxyContin and citalopram was enough to kill an adult, he said.
Based on the test results, the cause of death was changed to severe dehydration resulting in homicide, Stokoe said.
Barry’s boyfriend, Christopher Beyers, found the baby face-down and not breathing on the couch where Barry was sleeping. The baby was taken by ambulance to Good Shepherd Medical Center in Hermiston, where she was pronounced dead.