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Guilty plea in child's death by methadone overdose

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By Diana Hefley, Herald Writer
EVERETT -- Robin Reed used methadone for years to fight a heroin addiction.
She had signed a contract with a Seattle clinic, agreeing to follow the rules. She promised to lock away the doses she was entrusted to take home for treatment on Sundays when the clinic was closed. She promised not to stockpile the cherry-flavored liquid.
Reed, 55, admitted Wednesday she didn't keep those promises. Reed acknowledged in front of a judge that her broken promises caused the death of her only grandchild, 17-month-old Alison Reed.
Alison overdosed on her grandmother's methadone May 16, 2008. The girl crawled out of her playpen sometime overnight, found the methadone in Reed's purse on the kitchen table and swallowed a lethal dose of the sweet, syrupy drug. Reed found Alison face down next to the playpen. There was no way to save her.
"She was tall and very athletic. She was beautiful," Reed said Wednesday outside a Snohomish County courtroom. "The world is just not the same place without her."
Reed pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter. A judge sentenced her to a month in jail and four months on a work crew with home-electronic monitoring. That's well below the standard range.
The Lynnwood woman faced more than two years in prison. As part of a plea agreement attorneys on both sides recommended that Reed spend two months on a county work crew.
Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Tammy Bayard told the judge that mitigating factors led her to agree to the reduced sentence, namely Reed's immediate and continued cooperation with detectives.
"This is a difficult case because I think that as with any case that you take to trial you run the risk of an acquittal," Bayard said. "Ms. Reed has shown she is taking responsibility for her actions that led to Alison's death. It was important for me that this child's life did not end in vain."
Defense attorney Natalie Tarantino also told the judge that there were legitimate questions about whether the prosecutor could prove that Reed could have foreseen the danger, a factor needed to support the manslaughter charge. She said Reed's purse was not left in easy reach of the child and Reed often used the lock box.
Tarantino also added that if Reed were sentenced to a lengthy prison term, she would lose her Social Security benefits and be homeless when she was released.
Snohomish County Superior Court Presiding Judge Larry McKeeman questioned the recommendation for leniency.
Reed knew her granddaughter could get out of her playpen. She knew the medication was cherry-flavored. She knew she was supposed to have the methadone locked up, McKeeman said.
"Yet she chose not to lock it up and left it out where it caused the death of a child," he said.
Reed spoke to the judge before being sentenced.
"I do own the trailer. It is a humble trailer but it's nice," she said. "If I lose (Social Security), I won't be able to pay rent. I'll lose the trailer."
She said her daughter, Alison's mother, also needs her. The dead girl's mother was not at Wednesday's hearing.
"We're both very vulnerable. We both need to build our lives and not have everything stripped from me again," Reed said.
McKeeman remained silent for several moments after hearing from Reed.
"This was a terrible tragedy that was easily preventable," he said. "Alison had a whole life ahead of her. That was taken from her by the failure of the defendant to take minimal actions ..."
McKeeman said after reading the letter Reed wrote him he believes she is remorseful. He agreed that the mitigating factors raised by the attorneys supported a sentence below the standard range.
"But I do think some time in custody is called for," he said.
Reed was allowed to remain free until July.
"I'm serving a life sentence of my own," she said after the hearing. "Alison was my cherished and beloved little buddy. I love her. I tried very hard to keep her safe. I only hope no one else has to go through this."
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463,
Story tags » LynnwoodPrisonAddiction

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