By Rachel Dove
WILLIAMSON - The mother of a child who suffered from muscular dystrophy sobbed as she told a judge what occurred the night her son died, as she entered a guilty plea to a charge of delivering a controlled substance.
Brandi Baisden and her husband, Scott, of Merrimac, were well known in the Tug Valley area as strong supporters of efforts to eradicate MD. The couple’s 10-year-old son, Zachary, had been confined to a wheelchair for all of his life, but did not let his handicap stop him from enjoying life. He was active in the Labor Day weekend MD telethon, sitting alongside members of the Williamson Fire Department as they conducted roadblocks to raise money for the cause that prevented him from walking, running and participating in sports like most of his friends.
In May 2012, Zachary died from what was identified as complications of pneumonia and infection that claimed his young life. His death was a tragedy that is well remembered, and several memorials were held to celebrate the life that ended all too soon.
One year later, however, the case took a shocking turn as Zachary’s mother and father were each indicted on one count of child neglect resulting in the death of their son. These charges were brought after the autopsy report showed the prescription drug Xanax in his system.
During the hearing in Mingo County Circuit Court, Brandi Baisden pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of delivering a controlled substance. The grief-stricken mother told Mingo County Senior Status Circuit Judge John Cummings that her son was in pain the night in question, and was also having trouble breathing. She admitted that she gave him Xanax, which was prescribed for her husband, hoping it would relax him and ease his breathing.
Mingo County Prosecutor Teresa Maynard told the court that more detailed tests that were performed showed that the drug given did not contribute to Zachary’s death and this was not a case of child neglect resulting in death, but still a life is now gone. Preliminary reports from the State Medical Examiner’s office ruled that the Xanax compromised the child’s breathing and aided in his demise.
“Nobody ever wins in a case like this; the child is still gone and we can’t bring him back, and it’s difficult for the parents. It’s very difficult for me to prosecute a case like this,” Maynard said.
Zachary’s father was granted a pretrial diversion based upon evidence that he did not give his son the medication, and that the medication was not the cause of death. Prosecutors say that Scott Baisden lied to investigators by saying he administered the drug, and did so to protect his wife. The child neglect resulting in death charge against Scott Baisden also was dropped and he will not face jail time or a fine, but will be monitored for drug use four times a month for the next year.
Maynard says she now believes there was never any intent from the parents to harm the child, but only a neglect issue.
“I don’t think there was ever an intentional act or that it was ever the intent of these parties to harm this child, it was more of a neglect issue, more of an omission than an action,” Maynard said.
Last May when indictments were returned against the parents, Maynard, who was the assistant prosecuting attorney at that time, told the news media that toxicology reports showed Zachary had been given high doses of over-the-counter cold medication, along with Xanax, and said the combination caused Zachary to get even sicker and have serious problems with his lungs. Maynard also said this began in October 2011, seven months before Zachary’s death and said that workers at Zachary’s school told his parents they needed to take him to a doctor, but they failed to comply.
The Daily News took to the streets to ask the public’s opinion about the plea deal and learned that the people interviewed believed that Zachary’s death was avoidable and that he did not receive justice.
“His death will go unpunished,” said Evelyn Jewell, who was stopped outside City Tire in Williamson and was asked about the court ruling. “That little boy might have been sick and he may have suffered from MD, but I feel in my heart those drugs played a part in his death.
“I hate stuff like this. Yeah, this might be a hard case to try and there really are no winners, but both parents should have still been charged with neglect” Jewell said. “I mean, how can those investigating the death go from saying the meds contributed to his death and still say there was neglect proven, yet not charge the parents?”
“This is a sad day. This little boy is dead because he wasn’t properly treated and I will go to my own grave believing that,” she said.
Brandi Baisden was represented during the plea hearing by Attorney Marsha Rumora and her husband’s legal counsel was Jeff Simpkins.
Baisden could face 1-3 years in jail and a $10,000 fine when she is sentenced on April 17.