Authorities with the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General say a Johnstown mother is facing involuntary manslaughter charges in the fatal overdose of her 5-year-old daughter.
Investigators say the girl was found dead in her home last October, by her sibling.
Authorities say an autopsy revealed that the girl had died as a result of a fentanyl-related overdose.
Officials say Cambria County Coroner Jeffrey Lees determined the cause of death was acute fentanyl toxicity and ruled the manner of death as a homicide.
“This was a heart-wrenching case for our office. Anytime you are dealing with the death of a child, the emotional levels go up. There is no reason for this 5-year-old girl to be deceased,” Coroner Lees said. “We pronounced this death on October 27, 2022, and what followed was a very extensive and comprehensive investigation by my office, law enforcement, the District Attorney’s office, and the Attorney General’s office. That work takes time, and I commend all the professionals involved with getting to the bottom of what happened to this child.”
On Tuesday, officials say 27-year-old Volaura Askew reportedly turned herself into authorities and was charged with involuntary manslaughter, two counts of endangering the welfare of children, two counts of recklessly endangering another person, possession of a controlled substance, and tampering with evidence.
Investigators say Askew was accused of exposing both children to fentanyl and heroin in the days and hours prior to the 5-year-old’s death.
“This case involves a disturbing set of facts and the devastating loss of a 5-year-old child’s life, caused by the choices and actions of her own mother, I cannot emphasize enough the danger and deadly threat fentanyl poses to Pennsylvanians. No one especially young children is immune from its devastating consequences.”
Authorities say two other individuals, Albert Spicer and Elyse Young, both of Johnstown, were also charged in the case.
Investigators say Spicer had reportedly supplied the drugs to Askew, who then reportedly used them while staying at Young’s home.
“This case demonstrates that law enforcement and prosecutors at all levels take the health and protection of our youth very seriously. Children should never be exposed to illegal drugs, and when caregivers fail to insulate those in their care from dangerous substances, law enforcement will take all necessary and proper steps to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the harm suffered,”
The case will be prosecuted by the Attorney General’s office.