CINCINNATI (AP) — A mother who police say was with her two children when she and her boyfriend overdosed on heroin at a McDonald's play area near Cincinnati pleaded guilty Monday to a charge of child endangerment and could be released from jail in less than two months.
Tamica Jeffers, 33, who denied using heroin and said she had had a seizure that day at McDonald's, pleaded guilty in Hamilton County court after reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors. The state dropped a second misdemeanor charge of child endangerment.
Before her sentencing, neither the defense nor the prosecution provided testimony regarding Jeffers' medical condition but police officers disputed her version of events and expressed concern for Jeffers' children, who are in state custody in Indiana.
Judge Fanon Rucker sentenced Jeffers to six months in jail, but suspended half of it and gave Jeffers credit for the 42 days she spent in jail following her arrest. With the sentencing, Jeffers will have to serve 48 more days before being released.
Jeffers, of Dillsboro, Ind., wept in court as she denied ever using heroin, telling Rucker that she had a seizure on March 9 after her boyfriend overdosed on the drug in a McDonald's indoor play area. Police say the boyfriend, Robert Palmer, "essentially died" but an officer was able to revive him.
Jeffers' two children, an 8-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl who has since turned 6, were there at the time. Palmer is the girl's father.
"I was in shock because when I went over to him, he was blue. His lips were blue. He was not responding to me," Jeffers said through tears. "I am remorseful my kids had to see their dad like that and me like that."
Jeffers said she didn't know Palmer was using heroin until a week before the incident, and thought he only used medications prescribed to him for cancer and Crohn's disease.
Jeffers said she experienced head trauma last April and began having seizures in November. She said her seizure at the McDonald's likely was triggered by the stress of the situation. She said she also took prescription medications, but nothing else.
Cpl. Tim Icenogle of the Green Township police, who was at the hospital after Jeffers and Palmer were taken there by ambulance, was in court Monday and disputed Jeffers' version of events.
"She told me her name, address, everything else. She was coherent," Icenogle told the judge. "Then I told her that if she did use heroin like her boyfriend said, then she needed to let the nurse know. Then she turned and looked at the nurse and told her that she had used heroin."
After the hearing, Icenogle said Jeffers also admitted to using heroin monthly.
"I don't buy that seizure thing at all," he said.
Jeffers' attorney, John Waggal, did not return a call seeking comment Monday.
Green Township police Officer Scott Celender was the first officer to arrive at the McDonald's and he revived Palmer after chest compressions.
Celender told the judge the case came down to the safety of Jeffers' children, who are now in the custody of Indiana's Child Protective Services. Palmer was sentenced last week to six months in jail on two previous misdemeanor convictions.
"They were right there as dad fell to the floor and essentially died, because he was dead at the scene ... Then she goes into her spell and the kids are just crying away," Celender said. "A citizen came up and escorted the kids out of the site. Quite frankly, had they not by the grace of God been in the care of reasonable people, someone could have easily just walked right out the door with them, and that is the issue."
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