Doctors determined this was a case of child neglect with exposure to fentanyl

SAN LUIS OBISPO — San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson and District Attorney Dan Dow held a press conference today to discuss the arrest made of three people for the death of an eight-month-old baby girl in Heritage Ranch.

The case began on Feb. 4 when a Sheriff’s Deputy responded to cease fire, and paramedics reported that an infant was not breathing in the 5000 block of Meadowlark Lane in Heritage Ranch.

The infant was airlifted to Twin Cities Hospital and then later transferred to the Children’s Hospital at Stanford University, where the baby girl died.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles

The doctors determined that this was a case of child neglect with exposure to fentanyl. The infant tested positive for exposure to both fentanyl and methamphetamines. Sheriff detectives received information that the parents of the child Shawn and Kayla Luhm were suspected drug users. A search warrant was served at their home in Heritage Ranch, where narcotics were discovered.

Additionally, through electronic forensic examinations, investigators discovered that the Luhm’s attempted to clean the crime scene before detectives could serve the search warrant. Evidence also revealed the parent’s attempt to obtain narcotics while at the hospital where their daughter was being treated at Stanford.

On May 14, Detectives arrested 38-year-old Shawn Luhm and his wife, 31-year-old Kayla Luhm, for willful cruelty to a child with possible injury or death. Additionally, 36-year-old Melissa Currie of Atascadero was arrested as an accessory as an accessory to willful cruelty to a child with possible injury or death for her involvement in the crime.

Sheriff Parkinson went on to say, “this is an obviously a very sad case and speaks to the dangers of drugs and especially to fentanyl to where a very small amount could be deadly particularly to a child.”

He went on to explain, “to give you an idea of what has been happening with fentanyl locally in 2019, we had 53 drug overdose deaths in San Luis County 11 which had fentanyl in their systems. In 2020 just a year later, we had 88 drug-related deaths which 34 had fentanyl in their system. So far [this year], 16 drug-related deaths, 9 of which have had fentanyl in their systems, and we have another 25 cases that remain open waiting for the return of what drug has killed them. It’s proven to be a deadly drug; it’s one of the drugs that tend to seize the most today; last year, statistics actually showed that we had seized more fentanyl than we had methamphetamine, which is obviously unusual but also tells us that it is very prevalent in our community right now and through the nation.”

Parkinson then turned the conference over District Attorney Dan Dow, who explained that it is important that the community remember the victim, her name was Lilith, eight months old who died well before her time because of the tragic use of fentanyl. Fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than morphine and similarly more potent than heroin.

Dow highlighted the fact that drug use is often considered by people to be a victimless crime, but this case is a prime example that it is not a victimless crime.

After reviewing the investigation working with the Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s office filed felony charged against Shawn Luhm and Kayla Luhm for felony child abuse in violation penal code 273.A as a felony in that the two parents willfully and unlawfully under circumstances likely to produce great bodily injury or death and caused baby Lilith to be inflicted with unjustifiable physical harm in such a way where she was in danger through exposure to fentanyl and methamphetamines.

Count 2 charges the third individual Melissa Currie as being an accessory after the fact to that crime of that abuse leading to the death of baby Lilith.

Dow then recalled a case from May 2020 where the District Attorney’s office filed second-degree murder charges against Timothy Clark Wolfe 22-years-old of Paso Robles, for dealing fentanyl to an individual whom Dow wanted to remember today.

Emilio Velci, a 19-year-old young man who thought he was buying OxyContin, a pharmaceutical drug, instead purchased a fake OxyContin laced with fentanyl, and because it is 50-100 times more potent than morphine, it is often deadly, which is why the District Attorney’s office along with the law enforcement are dealing with any hard drugs very seriously.

The murder charge stems from Wolfe selling the 19-year-old victim three counterfeit pills that appeared to be 30 milligram Percocet (a mixture of oxycodone and acetaminophen). However, the pills sold by Wolfe actually contained fentanyl, which again is a powerful synthetic opioid known to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The youth took one pill and died from fentanyl intoxication.

Wolfe is charged under the theory that when he sold the pills, he knew, or should have known, that the pills contained fentanyl and were extremely dangerous to human life.

The District Attorney and Sheriff’s office will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute individuals that are selling these types of illicit drugs in our community to keep them out of the hands of children and adults because they are so deadly.

Dow ended with saying, “I am saddened that we are here today to announce these charges because baby Lilith really did not stand a chance, and obviously by her death based on her ingestion of fentanyl and methamphetamines is a tragedy that could have been prevented in our community. My hope is that the partnership between the Sheriff’s office and our office and all of the other local law enforcement agencies can get the word out about this, we will be able to help stop further procreation of fentanyl in our community.”

Lilith Luhm was born on Jun. 8, 2020; she was found unresponsive on Feb. 4 and pronounced dead on Feb. 10; she had just turned 8-months old.

As with any prosecution, the investigation is ongoing. We are seeking the public’s assistance in providing any information you may have about this case. Individuals with information are encouraged to contact San Luis Obispo County Crime Stoppers at (805)549-7867 or online at slotips.org.

The case was investigated by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office and is being prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Lindsey Bittner.

It is important to note that a criminal complaint contains charges that must be proven in a court of law by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Click here to view a copy of the complaint document.

Contact Assistant District Attorney Eric J. Dobroth at (805)781.5819 with any questions.