A prosecutor Monday told a jury that an East Hills mother put a fatal dose of fentanyl in her 17-month-old daughter's sippy cup last year so she could get rid of the child and return to smoking marijuana.
In making that accusation, the prosecutor dismissed an argument by defendant Jhenea Pratt's attorney that Ms. Pratt's boyfriend, Albert Williams, was responsible for the April 5, 2018 death of Charlette Napper-Talley.
"[The] defense wants you to believe [Mr. Williams] has something to do with Charlette's death, but why? Why would he harm her child when he has kids of his own that he takes care of?" Diana Page, an assistant district attorney, asked the jury.
The truth is that Ms. Pratt wanted to "sit back, relax and smoke marijuana," Ms. Page told jurors. "That baby was getting in the way of her enjoying her pastime."
Ms. Pratt is charged with homicide and endangering the welfare of children in connection with her daughter's death by fentanyl poisoning.
In making her closing argument, Ms. Page told jurors that the girl's death wasn't a random incident but rather was done with "specific intent to kill."
As the prosecution wrapped up its case earlier Monday, jurors were shown a video of a detective interviewing Ms. Pratt. In the video, Detective Michael Flynn tells Ms. Pratt that the pink sippy cup from which Charlette drank the laced deadly liquid had enough fentanyl to "kill two horses."
Jurors will consider whether to find Ms. Pratt guilty of first- or third-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter.
In April 2018, Pittsburgh police discovered a red liquid inside a pink sippy cup on Charlette’s bed in her East Hills apartment after responding to a call just after 6 p.m. for a baby who wasn’t breathing.
Days after Charlette died in the hospital, the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office received results from two tests. Both indicated the presence of fentanyl in the toddler’s blood, as did another screening in May by an independent lab. The inside of the cup also tested positive for fentanyl, police said, and the medical examiner’s office listed Charlette’s death as a homicide due to fentanyl poisoning. Investigators said two people were in charge of Charlette on the day of her death — Ms. Pratt and Mr. Williams. They both denied using, transporting or storing heroin or fentanyl, police said.
When asked how fentanyl could have gotten into the cup, Ms. Pratt told police that it might have been a from a fruit-flavored “happy drink” that “tasted funny to her,” a criminal complaint said. Ms. Pratt told police that she put her daughter in bed and gave her the cup. About an hour later, after smoking marijuana, she said she checked on the girl, found her not breathing and called 911, the said.
In the complaint, police indicated that only Ms. Pratt could have given Charlette the fentanyl even though Mr. Williams had taken care of the girl earlier in the day and had given her a sippy cup at one point. Police wrote in the complaint that “if Charlette had ingested fentanyl during the time frame Williams had her she would have died very shortly after ingesting it.”
Defense attorney Brandon Herring argued to jurors that Mr. Williams placed fentanyl in the child's cup. He cited as proof evidence that he said authorities discovered during their investigation showing that Mr. Williams had packages with fentanyl sent to his mother's home. It was not immediately clear what the fentanyl packages were for.
"Albert had access to fentanyl and he prepared the sippy cup," Mr. Herring said. "The prosecution hasn't provided any evidence that Ms. Pratt put the fentanyl in that cup."
Ms. Pratt wiped her eyes with tissue when Mr. Herring said she "doesn't want to be held responsible for the death of her daughter."
Mr. Herring said Ms. Pratt may "smoke weed every now and then," but that shouldn't negate everything she's done for her child. He stated Ms. Pratt has had the hardship of raising her child on her own, without the help of Charlette's father, or Mr. Williams.
But Ms. Page said the defense was wrong that Ms. Pratt didn't have help. She said Mr. Williams did take care of Charlette and made sure Ms. Pratt had a way to get to her college classes.
Ms. Page told jurors that stories recounted by various witnesses — a social worker and two of Ms. Pratt's former cellmates at the Allegheny County Jail — about what Ms. Pratt said had happened to her daughter were "inconsistent."
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