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Charleston woman guilty of child neglect after overdose

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jurors found a Charleston woman guilty of child neglect Tuesday after overdosing on heroin in front of her 2-year-old child in July.

Susan Nicole Adkins, 39, faces one to five years in prison for child neglect creating a substantial risk of bodily injury or death.

On July 9, Adkins drove her car into an alley near McQueen and Red Oak streets on Charleston's West Side. While her son was strapped in his car seat in the back of the car, Adkins passed out after injecting herself with heroin, according to prosecutors.

The boy "was a prisoner of his mom's drug use, strapped in the car seat," assistant prosecutor Fred Giggenbach told jurors during closing arguments Tuesday.

Jurors deliberated for about two hours before returning the guilty verdict. Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom will sentence Adkins Feb. 7. She will remain out of jail on bond in a drug rehabilitation facility until her sentencing.

Attorneys for Adkins argued during the trial, which began Monday, that jurors shouldn't consider what could have happened to the boy, because he was found unharmed.

 "The 2-year-old was fine," Brandon Cook, an attorney for Adkins told jurors. "We're not asking you to find Ms. Adkins mother of the year, that's certainly not the case ... she engaged in conduct that needed to be addressed."

Giggenbach told the jury of six men and six women that although the boy wasn't physically injured, Adkins placed him in a risky situation in a dangerous neighborhood. Also, he was found crying and his cheeks were flushed when paramedics arrived on the scene, Giggenbach said.

The prosecutor also pointed out before jurors deliberated that Adkins could have "died there if EMTs wouldn't have come."

"What if it was 9 o'clock at night and no one stopped?" he asked.

Cook told jurors, though, that Adkins had parked blocking the alley to traffic making her car impossible to miss. "A place where in the event of an overdose Ms. Adkins could be easily discovered," he said.

Young boys alerted Leslie Jackson, who lives nearby where Adkins was parked, after seeing Jackson slumped over and her son crying in the vehicle. Jackson testified during the trial that she saw a needle in the front seat and aluminum foil "with black stuff in it."

Jackson, who has lived near where Adkins was found, also agreed with the prosecutor's theory about the area on the West Side being dangerous.

"The reality is," argued Cook, however, "that child was no more in danger on the West Side of Charleston than he would've been in South Hills."

Paramedics and firefighters who responded to the incident testified during the trial. Also, a Child Protective Services employee that had deemed the child unsafe in his mother's care testified Adkins had gotten her life back on track, according to what was said during closing arguments. The child's father was also called to testify.

"She decided, I'd rather get high than care for my child," Giggenbach said.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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