ME: Toddler sedated, then drowned in Cannon Beach

Jessica Smith, 40, faces charges of aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder

ASTORIA, Ore. (KOIN 6) — A 2-year-old found dead in a room at a Cannon Beach resort drowned, but a sedating drug was a contributing factor.

At the arraignment for Jessica Smith, Medical Examiner Karen Gunson said the toddler, Isabella, had “intoxicating levels” of chlorpheniramine, an antihistamine found in cough syrup and cold medicines.

Isabella died from asphyxiation by drowning, Gunson said, but the drug was a factor.

There was an unusually high amount of antihistamine in her system, and toxicology samples were sent to a second lab for confirmation.

The Surfsand Resort in Cannon Beach, August 1, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
The Surfsand Resort in Cannon Beach, August 1, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

The toddler’s 13-year-old sister, Alana, will not be charged in the death even though it appears she helped her mother, officials said. The teen is currently living with family members in Washington with help from Child Protective Services.

Police say the 40-year-old from Washington state drove her children to a resort in Cannon Beach before her husband prepared to seek custody of the children.

At her arraignment

Jessica Smith appeared by video in Clatsop County Circuit Court. She pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder.

She smiled throughout the hearing. When asked whether she understood that she would not be released before a Sept. 30 court date, she winked.

Her defense attorney may ask for a change of venue because he fears the intense media coverage of the case may prevent her from getting a fair trial.

But Clatsop County DA Josh Marquis said he’s never had trouble getting a fair trial in the county.

Portland therapist’s professional opinion 

“To me, it seems like she just isn’t dealing with reality. She’s just out there, somewhere in her own head,” said Michael Buys, a longtime Portland licensed mental health therapist.

Longtime Portland licensed mental health therapist Michael Buys, August 12, 2014. (KOIN 6)
Longtime Portland licensed mental health therapist Michael Buys, August 12, 2014. (KOIN 6)

Buys hasn’t treated Smith, but he said he thinks she’s psychotic. It’s one of four other reasons, including revenge, battery, altruism and whether the child was unwanted, that Buys said a parent might kill their children.

According to Buys, there are only 250 cases similar to Smith’s country-wide every year. It’s an insignificant statistic, he said. However, the emotional impact is anything but insignificant.

Buys said there are some warning signs to be aware of.

“Take the time to be that neighbor and be part of the community, and hopefully you can be a light in that person’s world and give them some hope and some help,” said Buys.

Donation requests

Many have inquired whether the general public is able to make donations to help Smith’s teenage daughter in this case.

In response to the numerous requests, a fund has been set up at the Twin Star Credit Union in Vancouver. The account number is 0000431165.

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

blog comments powered by Disqus