Baby Dies After Receiving Heroin-Laced Bottle

According to the CDC, 105 Americans die every day from drug overdose. Ordinarily, however, these are adults struggling with addiction to drugs such as prescription painkillers; unable to control their behavior and eventually taking too much in one sitting. It’s not every day that the victim of an overdose is a five-month old baby, but that’s exactly what happened to the daughter of Ryan Barry and Ashley Cyr of Quincy, Massachusetts. Their daughter Mya was pronounced dead in 2011, and after appearing in court in October they have been charged with manslaughter. There was heroin in a bottle of formula that was fed to their daughter, and the baby died of an overdose.

What Happened

Mya Barry died in September 2011 after the police were called out to the family’s house, which was a short drive southeast of Quincy. When police arrived at the scene, they found her grandmother trying to perform CPR on the infant, who was lying unresponsive on the living room floor. The prosecution in the case commented, “The victim was observed to be cold to the touch, not breathing, with her pupils fixed and dilated.” After being rushed to the hospital, the baby was pronounced dead, and the cause was determined to be opiate poisoning.

Police searched the family’s home. Mya’s room was shared with her two sisters, ages 3 and 4, and her parents. Inside, officers found three grams of heroin and hypodermic needles. Although this established a risk of exposure to opiates, it wasn’t clear how the baby had been poisoned until the baby’s bottle was tested and heroin was found in the formula.

The parents were arrested in early October 2013 after being charged with manslaughter and pleading not guilty. They have been held on a $200,000 bail until they’re due back in court on the 8th of November. According to the prosecution lawyer, Ryan Barry told police he mixed the baby’s last bottle by mixing equal parts formula and water. When police asked him how the heroin had gotten into the bottle, he speculated that perhaps a dirty syringe had been cleaned in the bottle of water he used to make the formula. His own lawyer argues that it’s unclear who put the heroin in the baby’s bottle, and stressed how Barry was “devastated by the death of his daughter.”

Snorting Heroin from a Dr. Seuss Book

According to the prosecution, Ryan Barry also told police of Ashley Cyr’s recklessness around her children. He claimed she was out of control in her drug use, and that she had once snorted heroin off a Dr. Seuss book before dropping it onto the floor, leaving it unattended and where the children could easily reach it.

This type of behavior led the judge to comment that, “They are living a lifestyle of addiction and are controlled by addiction … They do not, at this point, have control over their lives.” In addition to the manslaughter charge, Ashley Cyr was also charged with reckless endangerment of a child.

The story of snorting heroin from a children’s book before leaving it where young children could easily ingest it paints a clear picture of the skewed priorities arising from the drug-addled brain. With Cyr’s brain’s reward system begging for a fresh hit of heroin, the risks associated with looking after children under the influence—and even the much more obvious risks of leaving a dangerous substance within reach of young children—fade from view. Addiction hijacks the brain so that getting another hit is the only thing that’s important. This ordinarily leads people to lose their jobs, destroy relationships and even commit crimes to fund their habit.  In extreme cases like this, addiction can lead to reckless endangerment of children.

A Stark Wake-Up Call

It’s often said that people get clean from drugs after reaching rock bottom, and we can only hope that the loss of an innocent life will encourage Cyr and Barry to realize how serious their problems really are. The prosecutor commented that, “You’ve got heroin. You’ve got needles. You’ve got children. You’ve got a recipe for disaster.”

This quote strikes right at the heart of the issue. The undeniable fact is that even if the situation hadn’t gone so catastrophically wrong, it was only a matter of time before something tragic happened in their household. With discarded needles just waiting to accidently plunge into a child—potentially infected with a blood-borne disease—and heroin lying around, which could easily be thoughtlessly swallowed by one of their older children, it was a ticking time bomb. In similar situations, even if these potential problems are rectified, how reliable can you really ever be as a parent when you’re strung out on opiates?

Opiate abuse is currently an epidemic problem in the U.S., ordinarily through prescription drugs, and this story should serve as a wake-up call to any parent regularly acting under the influence. Getting help is essential—even for your own benefit—but when you’re responsible for young lives the necessity to regain control of your behavior is all the more urgent. Mya Barry’s death is undeniably a tragedy, but it’s hopefully one that will show parents across America how their habits can severely impact their children.