Local News

Moms of cocaine-addicted newborns charged

Posted July 10, 2009 6:11 p.m. EDT
Updated July 11, 2009 10:14 a.m. EDT

— Since March, five women in Franklin County have been charged with felony child abuse for allegedly using cocaine while they were pregnant.

It all started when Franklin County Deputy Ruby Galvin spoke with local social service representatives, who were frustrated by the number of cases of drug-addicted newborns they were seeing.

"How sad it was that these children were being born with cocaine in their system and that nobody could do anything about it," Galvin said Friday.

After discussing the cases with the county's Department of Social Services, Galvin also consulted both the sheriff and the district attorney's office. Both agreed she should start pursuing charges.

From late March until mid-June, investigators charged Sarah Nicole Pierce, 28, of 705 Old Halifax Road, Louisburg; Nekeisha Renee Bullock, 24, of 81 Johns Way, Bunn; Gennifer J. Herrmann Dietz, 30, of 125 Chickisaw, Louisburg; Robin Lee Ledbetter, 20, of 115 Cattle Drive, Zebulon; and Evette Kearney Branch, 34, of 1345 Walter Grissom Road, Kittrell.

Investigators were able to prove through toxicology reports that the five women passed along cocaine to their children.

Branch said Friday that her 4-month-old daughter is in good health. She was able to keep custody of her child because there is another responsible adult at the home.

Branch said she got involved with the wrong crowd and admitted to using cocaine while pregnant. She said she is sorry.

The other women charged could not be reached for comment.

Some doctors worry charging the women could deter others from getting the medical care they need while pregnant.

Dr. Tom Iverster, a specialist in maternal fetal medicine at UNC Hospitals, says it's a problem he's noticed

"The more concerning things for us are the more neurologic symptoms – the jitteriness, the hypertonia, things that look like seizures around the time of birth. Obviously, the things for later in life – neurologic impairment and behavioral problems – are of greater concern for us.

He said something needs to be done, but he isn't sure if filing criminal charges is the way to solve the problem.

He fears that could deter women from getting prenatal care.

Investigators, like Galvin, say treatment – not jail time – is their goal.