Kansas City Star

Jackson County prosecutors have charged a Kansas City woman with first-degree involuntary manslaughter after her 2-year-old son was found dead in October 2022 of alleged fentanyl poisoning.

Tierra R. O’Field is also charged with first-degree endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the death of her son, Terrion.

“… The defendant knowingly acted in a manner that created a substantial risk to the life, body and health of (her son), by failing to supervise (him) and leaving fentanyl within his reach,” according to a grand jury indictment handed down earlier this month. “And this conduct resulted in death to the child.”

The indictment comes after The Star began asking questions last fall about why multiple fentanyl-related deaths of young children in Jackson County hadn’t resulted in criminal charges. Ultimately, Kansas City police said they had sent two cases to the prosecutor’s office for review that leaders there said they hadn’t seen.

The day the Star story reporting this development published online, the prosecutor’s office issued a correction and said it did locate those two cases. One of them was Terrion’s.

The endangering charge is a Class A felony that carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years or life. And the involuntary manslaughter count is a Class C felony with a minimum of three years in prison or a maximum sentence of 10 years or a fine not to exceed $10,000, or both.

Prosecutors said O’Field had “fentanyl readily accessible” to her 2-year-old. She posted a $50,000 bond and has a court hearing on Thursday in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Across both Missouri and Kansas, dozens of little children have died from the illicit drug in the past three years, The Star found in a recent investigation into the overall toll fentanyl has taken on the Kansas City community.

Unlike other drug crises, including crack, these children aren’t suffering from debilitating addictions to the drug because their parents were using; they are dying of actual fentanyl overdoses. The babies and toddlers — ages 4 and under — have come across the synthetic opioid and its residue in their homes, inside hotel rooms and even at a city park.

Their deaths have largely gone unnoticed, ending up as statistics inside annual state reports on child deaths or in records kept by county medical examiners. Most of the attention on fentanyl has focused on teens or young adults and the awareness that “one pill can kill.”

But in 2022 alone, Terrion was one of seven children in Jackson County ages 2 and under who died from fentanyl — three of them within one week, records obtained by The Star revealed. One was just 10 months old. Across the state line in 2020, another toddler, age 2, died in Johnson County and a 9-month old died in Leavenworth County of fentanyl intoxication.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said in late September she was stunned to hear that seven children ages 2 and under died in 2020 from fentanyl in her county. She said police had submitted three death cases to her office, and she filed charges in two of them — one from Independence and one from Kansas City.

But she said she didn’t know about the other four until The Star told her.

“It is shocking — kids shouldn’t die,” Baker said. “When I hear something like this, it kind of makes my hair fall out … usually, too, they live such a tough life before their death.”

Police officials, though, insisted that detectives had submitted two of those other cases — including Terrion’s death — to the prosecutor’s office in late January 2023.

After the story had been online, featured on The Star’s website for 12 hours, Baker’s office issued a statement correcting the information that had been previously provided and confirming that those two cases were in fact submitted to the prosecutor’s office. The cases were not found initially, the office said, “because of entry errors into our system.”

Terrion Lee O’Field died Oct. 11, 2022, in Kansas City, two-and-a-half months after his second birthday. In his obituary, the family said Terrion had 11 siblings and “loved playing football and playing with his cousins.”

“He also loved baby shark, enjoyed dancing, and wrestling,” it said.

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