Friday, February 06, 2015

TOP STORY >> Mother’s mold story unravels after arrest

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville mother accused of killing her toddler, who died in July from ingesting a narcotic usually prescribed to terminally ill patients, was released Friday from the Pulaski County jail on a $100,000 bond.

Jessica Rollins, 23, was arrested Tuesday. She is charged with the first-degree murder of 2-year-old Ka’Marion Hughes and introducing a controlled substance — Oxymorphone — into the body of another person.

According to the affidavit released by Jacksonville police Tuesday evening, there is evidence that Ka’Marion consumed one pill. But just one, it states, can be fatal — especially for children.

Rollins also has a 7-month-old daughter.

The Children and Family Services Division under the Arkansas Department of Human Services took custody of the baby Nov. 3.

Her mother tested positive for cocaine, marijuana and Oxycodone on Nov. 3 after she was questioned following the results of Hughes’ autopsy, according to the affidavit.

It also states that Rollins admitted to using cocaine, marijuana and a prescription drug that didn’t belong to her on Oct. 28.

Rollins was living in North Little Rock last week, according to a police report, but she was a tenant of Willow Bend Apartments on Marshall Road in Jacksonville when her son passed away suddenly.

The incident caused a stir because Hughes and a 2-month-old living at the same complex died within three days of each other.

No details were provided in a police report about the infant, but Hughes’ preliminary cause of death was respiratory arrest.

Rollins spoke to television media, but The Leader was unsuccessful in its attempts to contact her. Both she and the boy’s father, Marquese Hughes, suggested mold could be to blame.

The city’s code enforcement officers inspected the complex following media coverage of the deaths, but they didn’t find any mold — at least not in any of the usual places it would be that were spot-checked.

Rollins later informed television stations that she had been evicted for not paying rent. She said she thought the management had agreed to let her pay double the next month because her son’s funeral costs had caused financial strain.

Willow Bend is privately owned but houses low-income families who qualify for rental assistance through HUD, which received about a dozen complaints after television media interviewed Rollins and other tenants.

Management denied the mold allegations and all were awaiting autopsy results when The Leader covered the tragedy last summer.

Rollins was informed on Oct. 29 that her son had died from the drug overdose.

A voice stress analysis exam taken that day indicated Rollins might have been deceptive when she told police she didn’t know who gave the medicine to the toddler.

When the mother was first asked about pills or medication kept in the house, the affidavit stated she said there was over-the-counter medication in the apartment but that it was mostly children’s medication.

At first, Rollins denied ever having Oxymorphone in the apartment. After the exam, the mother told police she had found a pill and thrown it in the trash the day before her son died.

Marquese Hughes said he had been watching and playing with the toddler that day. His son was “fine jumping around” before Rollins came home from work at 8 p.m. during her lunch break, the father told police.

Marquese Hughes said he took a break from watching the kids and played a game while Rollins was home on her break.

The father admitted that he “did pop” Ka’Marion’s leg when the toddler, who was naked because he was starting to potty train, started jumping on a friend who was visiting.

Marquese said the 2-year-old seemed “thrown” after that and started lying limply on the couch at 9:30 p.m. But the father told police he just thought the boy was sleepy.

Both parents said Rollins came home from work in the early morning hours and put the kids to bed. The mother told police Ka’Marion felt warm and that she thought she would take him to the doctor if he was still warm in the morning.

Marquese Hughes discovered that his son wasn’t breathing when he returned around 5 a.m. from visiting a friend at another Willow Bend apartment.

The toddler was given CPR and rushed to North Metro Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 6:20 a.m.

The affidavit not only describes the July 26 incident but also details the parents’ Nov. 25 and Jan. 23 supervised visits with their 7-month-old daughter.

It reads that Rollins told a DHS caseworker during the first visit that the baby would get sick if not given cough medication.

Both parents were told to not bring any medication or food for their child.

During the second visit, a bottle that appeared to contain over-the-counter medication fell out of Marquese Hughes’ pocket. The parents were told again not to bring medication to the visits.

The baby was taken to the emergency room for an evaluation after the second visit, but no injuries were found, according to the affidavit.

It also states that Marquese Hughes left with the bottle but later turned it into the caseworker, who gave it to a police detective for identification.

DHS Communications Manager Amy Webb provided the following information on what happens when the agency takes custody of a child.

“We always try to find a relative who could provide care (the child may still be in foster care, but the relative will be the foster parent),” she wrote in an email to The Leader.

“If that’s not possible — or possible immediately — we find a foster family to provide a safe, stable and loving home.

“When a child is in our custody, our goal is always reunification with the parent — if it is safe to do so. We work with the family and develop a case plan with the goal of reunification.

“However, in some instances, it would not be safe to reunify the child and parent. In those cases, we will move to terminate parental rights so that the child can be adopted.”