BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – A Melbourne mom was arrested Tuesday on a charge of child manslaughter following the July death of her toddler from narcotics poisoning, court documents show.
Melissa Lehman, 24, of Melbourne was charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child and child neglect with great bodily harm in relation to the death of her 18-month-old daughter, Charlotte Rockey, who was discovered unresponsive in their trailer July 28, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.
On July 28, at about 5:04 a.m., Melbourne police responded to a report of an unresponsive toddler at the Lucky Clover RV and Mobile Home Park, according to Lehman’s arrest affidavit. Police found Charlotte lying face up on the kitchen floor and began CPR until paramedics arrived and determined she had no pulse. Paramedics pronounced her deceased at 5:15 a.m.
Officers determined that four people lived in the home, including Charlotte, Lehman, Lehman’s boyfriend and a male friend of the couple, the affidavit said. The male friend, who slept in the same bed as Charlotte “because of the confined living quarters,” found the toddler unresponsive when he woke that morning.
The affidavit said police did not observe “significant visible trauma, bruises, defensive wounds or other evidence on (the toddler’s) body suggesting she had been involved in a violent physical confrontation.”
The inside of the camper was filled with garbage, food wrappers, clothing and drug paraphernalia, the affidavit said, with half-eaten food out on the kitchen counter with bugs crawling around it.
Drugs and drug paraphernalia were located throughout the camper, all within reach of Charlotte, the affidavit said. Beside the bed, they found an unlabeled prescription bottle, a glass smoking pipe, and Lehman’s purse with an unsecured, loaded .45 caliber pistol. Opened packages of CBD gummies were in a laundry hamper beside the bed, and officers found an empty package of one of the products by the garbage can.
Lehman’s friend and Charlotte shared the bottom portion of a bunk bed, with the top bed being used for storage, the affidavit said. The bottom bunk was “extremely filthy,” covered in dirt, skin shedding and dried blood stains.
Police described the camper as having a “labyrinth of extension cords and electrical wires that were strewn across the floor,” but said that there was no damage found throughout the camper or evidence of a struggle or altercation, the affidavit said.
Lehman told police in an interview that day that Charlotte had appeared “happy and healthy” the day prior and hadn’t complained of any physical pain, the affidavit said. Lehman said she fed her spaghetti and garlic bread for dinner, then put her to bed with the friend at about 11:30 p.m. She added this had been the sleeping arrangement for around three months as Lehman was pregnant at the time and found sleeping with Charlotte “uncomfortable.”
Lehman said the rest of the night was uneventful until the morning of July 28, when her friend screamed for her to call 911, the affidavit said. She told officers she was afraid to give CPR at the direction of the 911 dispatcher, so her friend gave Charlotte a series of rescue breaths until police arrived.
Lehman told officers she did not see any medications, drugs, food or other unusual items near Charlotte’s mouth or body that could have contributed to her death, the affidavit said. She went on to admit that she, her boyfriend and their friend regularly smoked marijuana and that her boyfriend and their friend were both recovering heroin addicts. Both men regularly took Suboxone, which was prescribed to treat their opioid addiction, she said. She did not have any concerns about her friend’s mental or physical state while sleeping in the bed with the toddler and did not think his medication played a roll in her death.
Lehman’s friend said he went to bed around 11:30 p.m. and Lehman brought Charlotte in to sleep beside him a few minutes later, the affidavit said. When he woke to his alarm at 5 a.m. on July 28, he said he found Charlotte lying on her stomach with her head turned to the right, not breathing and cold to the touch.
During a July 30 autopsy by the Brevard County medical examiner, no evidence of injuries or trauma that were consistent with physical or sexual abuse were found, the affidavit said. The medical examiner’s preliminary opinion was that the toddler’s death was the result of her positioning on the bed due to co-sleeping.
But a completed autopsy made available to police on Oct. 18 determined that the cause of death was from cocaine toxicity with probable mechanical asphyxia. Other “significant factors” included the presence of cannabinoids and the toddler’s low body weight. The manner of death was “undetermined.”
The police investigation found that Lehman failed to give Charlotte the care and supervision she needed for her wellbeing by subjecting her to “deplorable and hazardous living conditions that were unsuitable for any human being to reside within,” making her sleep with an unrelated adult who was an intravenous drug user and likely not providing her with proper nourishment based on her low body weight, the affidavit said.
“(Lehman’s) culpable negligence to protect (Charlotte) from those hazards as her primary caregiver is believed to be the primary factor in her untimely death,” the affidavit said.
Lehman is being held on no bond at the Brevard County Jail. A court date has not been scheduled.