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The Bangor woman who was arrested Tuesday in connection with her 1-year-old daughter’s death allegedly rubbed heroin residue on her daughter’s gums to help her sleep and had done the same thing to her two older children in the past, according to court documents.
Kimberly Nelligan, 33, was arrested Tuesday morning, nearly a year after her daughter was found dead in her home from what later turned out to be fentanyl exposure. Nelligan pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a Class D charge of child endangerment and a Class E charge of possession of a Schedule Z drug.
Bangor police and fire officials responded to Nelligan’s home on Oct. 10, 2018, when she reported that her baby was not breathing. The 1-year-old was found dead in the home, and her body was transported to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever that is usually prescribed for severe pain but is sold illegally for its heroin-like effect, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s often cut into doses of heroin — users are generally unaware — and is 50 times more potent than heroin.
After denying that she used opioids during the initial investigation, Nelligan eventually confessed to using heroin once a week for two months before her daughter’s death, according to a police affidavit filed in court in Bangor. She told Bangor police officers that she snorted heroin that came in small baggies.
The baby’s father told Bangor police that during those two months, he had seen Nelligan rub the residue of the drug on her daughter’s gums about 15 times. The girl was having trouble sleeping, the father told police.
Nelligan allegedly told the father that she had done this to her two older children when they were babies as well, and it was not intended to hurt their 1-year-old daughter.
“You know I didn’t hurt our daughter on purpose,” Nelligan allegedly said to the father, according to the affidavit.
The Maine medical examiner’s office told Bangor police that the cause of death was acute fentanyl intoxication. The baby had to have directly ingested the fentanyl in some fashion, the medical examiner’s office told Bangor police.
Nelligan is out of jail on personal recognizance bail. Her conditions of release include no contact with the biological father and no unsupervised contact with children under 18. She is also not allowed to consume any alcohol or illegal drugs.
Nelligan’s next court appearance will be Nov. 12.
District Attorney Marianne Lynch said there might be more charges in the future as the investigation continues, but the DA’s office plans to move forward with only these two charges. The District Attorney’s office is in touch with the Maine Attorney General’s office about this case, she said. The Attorney General’s case prosecutes murder charges.
“These are very serious, very difficult cases, and in some instances the law isn’t really designed to address issues like this,” Lynch said. “If things change at some point, there is still a possibility for other charges to come forward, but at this point these are the charges we are confident we can go forward with.”
She declined to comment on whether the girl’s father could face charges.
When Maine’s child endangerment law was drafted, Lynch said, it mainly referred to alcohol or smokeless tobacco and did not take into account exposure to a deadly drug such as fentanyl. Hence there is no felony-level child endangerment charge.
“The law itself I think needs to catch up,” Lynch said.
The Class D child endangerment charge Nelligan is facing carries a maximum penalty of one year behind bars and a fine of up to $2,000. The Class E drug possession charge is punishable by a $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to 180 days.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call 211 or visit www.211maine.org.