Oct 11, 2016 4:48 PM
HAMPTON - The stepfather of the 19-month-old child who died last week was arraigned Tuesday morning on child endangerment and drug charges, as police say the child may have been exposed to fentanyl.
Leo Witham, 30, was held on $25,000 cash-only bail after his video arraignment at the 10th Circuit District Division Court in Seabrook. He is charged with misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child by purposely violating a duty of care, as well as two felonies: possession of a controlled drug and falsifying physical evidence.
According to court documents, Witham had "packing that contained the drug fentanyl open and accessible to the child" in their residence at 86 Ashworth Ave., No. 6 in Hampton, which is a room at the Westport Motel.
Police also said Witham concealed a bottle of the sedative Lorazapam under a blanket on the child's bed, allegedly after he learned police were investigating the child's death.
However, there is no direct connection at this time between the drugs and the toddler's death. Still, police are not ruling the drugs out as a cause.
"That is a possibility," said Hampton Police Chief Richard Sawyer. "Again, that's why we are awaiting the toxicology results before we make the determination as to whether there will be further charges."
Sawyer added an autopsy has been conducted on the toddler. In court, Prosecutor Sgt. Alex Reno said they will seek more severe charges depending on the results of that report.
"The investigation is ongoing," Sawyer added. "We're speaking to everybody we can that might've had contact [with Witham]. Usually, when these cases happen, an unattended death, we try and go back at least 24 hours in the person's history to find out who they had contact [with] and what could've caused the situation to occur."
Police said they think Witham was with the toddler -- who has been identified in an obituary as Bradyn J.M. Brewer -- before he became unresponsive. They also said Witham was the one who took the unresponsive child to the nearby Hampton Fire Department for help.
The toddler was taken by emergency medical crews to Exeter Hospital, where he later died.
"We actually had contact with him the morning of that incident," Sawyer said. "He was very distraught, child was unresponsive, and [he was] trying to make arrangements to get transport to the hospital."
Witham's wife, who is Brewer's mother, was not at the scene when the incident occurred.
"We were told by his wife that he had instructed her not to notify the police where he was," Reno said in court. "She then told us that he was staying in the town of Seabrook. We later determined that was false and that he had actually fled to the state of Massachusetts where he was hiding."
Witham was arrested on Friday and taken to the Rockingham County Jail, where he remains until his probable cause hearing, scheduled for Oct. 19.
In court Tuesday, Witham was visibly upset.
"He's just trying to process all of this," said Deanna Campbell, Witham's public defender. "He's obviously very distraught. As history would indicate, there's a drug problem that we would like to get some help for."
During the arraignment, Reno explained Witham's previous convictions and time served at a house of corrections, spanning from 2003 to 2014 and including burglary, possession of a controlled substance, and felon in possession of a dangerous weapon, among others.
Reno also said Witham's 6-year-old son has been placed in foster care by the Department of Children, Youth and Families.
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