Parents arrested after infant dies from fentanyl, cocaine overdose​, deputies say

Deputies: Both charged with aggravated manslaughter of child

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – A man and a woman were arrested Wednesday after an investigation regarding an infant found that the baby's death was caused by an apparent overdose of fentanyl and cocaine, according to the Brevard County Sheriff's Office.

David Williams Chappele Jr., 29, and Jessica Marie Strickland, 27, of unincorporated Cocoa, were arrested after a judge issued arrest warrants Wednesday.

Deputies said the two were charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child.     

The investigation began Sept. 6, 2017, after deputies went to a home on Walnut Street in Cocoa in reference to an unresponsive 8-month-old. Deputies said the infant was transported to a hospital, where the child was pronounced dead later that night.

An autopsy conducted by the Brevard County medical examiner determined that the death was caused by an overdose of fentanyl and cocaine, according to the Sheriff's Office.             

On the night of the incident, Strickland and Chappele placed a mattress on the floor of the living room to co-sleep with the infant in the middle of the bed, the investigation revealed. Deputies said Strickland awoke to find the infant unresponsive and called 911.

It is alleged that Chappele wore multiple fentanyl patches, which had been cut in half and that a lethal amount of fentanyl residue was transferred to the infant, according to the Sheriff's Office. It is also alleged that the infant ingested cocaine as Strickland was using the drug while caring for the infant, deputies said.

"While sleeping with the baby, the baby became in contact with the fentanyl that was in those patches," said Tod Goodyear, with the Sheriff's Office. "It was a level that was enough to kill him. We also found out with the cocaine toxicity that the mother was known to use cocaine, and while she was actively using cocaine was also caring for the child."

Chappele's charges are related to allowing the infant to be in direct proximity of a dangerous narcotic that caused the infant's death, according to the Sheriff's Office. Deputies said Strickland is being charged for failing to protect the infant, even though she knew the possible danger to the child from the drugs that were being used by both parents.

Chappele and Strickland were arrested and taken to the Brevard County Jail Complex, deputies said.

Chappele posted a $15,000 bond before his court date Thursday and Strickland was still in the county jail Thursday night, being held on a $15,000 bond.

The couple's maintenance man, Kim Lewis, said the day before the baby died, he changed his diaper himself, as Strickland appeared under the influence.

"There's been all kinds of reports to DCF," Lewis said. "They made all kinds of reports. All kinds of people said things, even neighbors, and nothing was done."

News 6 contacted DCF about those claims Thursday but did not receive a response.

Anyone with information about this investigation is asked to call Agent Wendy Wheeler, of the Brevard County Sheriff's Office Homicide Unit, at 321-633-8413.

About the Author:

James joined News 6 in March 2016 as the Brevard County Reporter. His arrival was the realization of a three-year effort to return to the state where his career began. James is from Pittsburgh, PA and graduated from Penn State in 2009 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.