RIVERSIDE (CNS) - A probationer and his girlfriend accused of exposing their three children to fentanyl, causing one to suffer a medical emergency, are slated to appear for a preliminary hearing at the Riverside Hall of Justice later this month to determine whether the charges against them are justified.
Kamron Charles Sanders, 31, Joshulyn Denise Penniman, 29, both of Riverside, were arrested earlier this week following a Riverside Police Department investigation that began after one of their children collapsed after ingesting fentanyl.
Each defendant is charged with three counts of child cruelty, with sentence-enhancing allegations of inflicting great bodily injury and taking advantage of a position of trust to commit a criminal offense.
The pair pleaded not guilty during a joint arraignment Wednesday, after which Riverside County Superior Court Judge Gary Polk scheduled the preliminary hearing for June 21. The hearing will determine whether there's sufficient evidence to try the defendants on all counts.
Both are being held on $145,000 bail -- Sanders at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, and Penniman at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.
According to Riverside police spokesman Officer Ryan Railsback, late Monday morning, paramedics were called to a grocery store on Magnolia Avenue in response to reports of a 3-year-old boy in medical distress.
The victim was taken to Riverside Community Hospital, where patrol officers were summoned after Penniman attempted to "interfere with the hospital's care of her son," Railsback said.
"Soon after, it was discovered the child had fentanyl in his blood stream and overdosed," he said.
The boy was stabilized and is in recovery.
Detectives initiated an investigation that uncovered the victim, "his 2-year-old sister, 5-year-old brother and parents had been experiencing homelessness for the past few months and were living in their car," the police spokesman said.
He said the 2-year-old girl and 5-year-old boy were examined and "also tested positive for fentanyl ... after (they) were possibly exposed to the drug in the car."
Sanders and Penniman were taken into custody without incident Monday night. The children were placed in the care of county Department of Child Protective Services personnel.
According to court records, Sanders has prior convictions for embezzlement and domestic battery. Penniman has no documented prior convictions in Riverside County.
Fentanyl, a 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.
The drug 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.
Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18 and 45 years old.