Dad arrested for baby girl’s heroin overdose

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Jeffery Thompson Source: Knox County Sheriff’s Office

A freak accident involving heroin nearly killed a baby girl in East Knox County and landed the child’s father in jail on a felony child abuse charge. 

Jeffery Thompson, 33, was charged with aggravated child abuse following the October 13 incident. He remained in custody at the county jail Sunday night in lieu of $50,000 bond, records show. 

The near tragedy occurred just after 8 p.m. on Wednesday, October 13, at a house on Mountair Drive, according to an arrest warrant filed by Detective Heather Gardner of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.

First responders were dispatched to the address on a report that a one-year-old child may have overdosed on heroin, Gardner said. 

When they arrived, the baby girl wasn’t breathing and her skin was turning blue. The first responders administered two doses of Narcan (an opiate antagonist that reverses the effects of an overdose) before rushing the girl by ambulance to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. 

Thompson allegedly admitted to injecting himself with two points (about two tenths of a gram) of “what is believed to be heroin” in a bathroom while he was watching his child, Gardner said. 

He explained that he didn’t wash his hands before feeding the child some string cheese and “touching her with his bare hands,” the detective said.

“Shortly after, he noticed the child had become ‘woozy’ and sleepy, saw her eyes roll back, and then she stopped breathing,” said Gardner. 

The girl’s mother wasn’t on the scene, according to the detective, and a referral was made to the Department of Children’s Services.

Thompson’s case was assigned to Assistant Public Defender Chris Irwin, who couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Tennessee’s so-called “Good Samaritan” law will have an impact on Thompson’s case. 

In 2015, as part of an effort to reduce the skyrocketing number of overdose deaths in the state, the law was changed to prevent people from being arrested if they called 911 to report an overdose. 

“Any person who in good faith seeks medical assistance for a person experiencing or believed to be experiencing a drug overdose shall not be arrested, charged, or prosecuted for a drug violation if the evidence for the arrest, charge, or prosecution of the drug violation resulted from seeking such medical assistance,” the law states. (The statute can be found at https://law.justia.com/codes/tennessee/2015/title-63/chapter-1/part-1/section-63-1-156). 

The protection provided by the law, however, is strictly limited.

For instance, it only prohibits prosecutions for misdemeanor possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia.  Even if a person is prosecuted for another crime because of their attempt to get medical help for someone, however, the law ensures their actions can be weighed as a mitigating factor.

There have been 364 fatal drug overdoses in Knox County so far this year, according to the website of District Attorney General Charme Allen.

Thompson is scheduled to appear for a bond hearing this morning in General Sessions Court.

J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at jjstambaugh@hardknoxwire.com.

Published on October 18, 2021.