Norco mom pleads not guilty in baby's fentanyl death

mugshot of woman with dyed green and pink hair
Jennifer Johanna Allen Photo credit Riverside County Sheriff

RIVERSIDE (CNS) - A 32-year-old Norco woman accused of physically abusing and allowing her 17-month-old daughter to ingest fentanyl, causing the baby's death, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to second-degree murder and other charges.

Jennifer Johanna Allen was arrested earlier this month following a Riverside County Sheriff's Department investigation at her residence in the 100 block of Eighth Street, near Crestview Drive.

Along with murder, Allen is charged with child abuse resulting in great bodily injury.

She was arraigned before Superior Court Judge Jason Armand, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for July 12 at the Riverside Hall of Justice and left her bail set at $1 million.

The defendant is being held at the nearby Robert Presley Jail.

According to sheriff's Sgt. Steve Brosche, patrol deputies were called to Allen's home at about 3:30 p.m. on May 9 to investigate reports of a child in medical distress.

Brosche said deputies found the victim, identified in court documents only as "J.A.," unconscious and unresponsive. Efforts by county fire paramedics to resuscitate the baby girl failed.

"During the course of the investigation, evidence was obtained showing fentanyl played a role in the juvenile's death," the sergeant said.

Allen was taken into custody without incident. She has no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County.

Prosecutors have charged nearly two dozen people countywide with second-degree murder in connection with fentanyl poisonings since February 2021.

The synthetic opioid is manufactured in overseas labs, principally in China, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The agency says the substances are smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border by cartels.

Fentanyl is 80-100 times more potent than morphine and can be mixed into any number of street narcotics and prescription drugs, without a user knowing what he or she is consuming. Ingestion of only two milligrams can be fatal.

Officials say fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18 and 45 years old.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Riverside County Sheriff