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Virginia Parents Charged with Murder of 2-Year-Old Who Died from Exposure to Fentanyl, Veterinary Tranquilizer, and Nicotine: Sheriff

Anna Elizabeth Raines and Jesse Alan Gunn

Anna Elizabeth Raines and Jesse Alan Gunn

A 37-year-old father in Virginia and his 29-year-old mother were arrested this week on homicide charges in connection with the death of their 2-year-old daughter. Jesse Alan Gunn and Anna Elizabeth Raines on Thursday were both charged with one count of felony homicide, authorities announced.

Under Virginia law, felony homicide is defined as the “killing of one accidentally, contrary to the intention of the parties, while in the prosecution of some felonious act,” which here is allegedly child neglect. Felony homicide is “murder of the second degree and is punishable by confinement in a state correctional facility for not less than five years nor more than forty years.”

The couple was initially been charged with one count each of felony child neglect, but those charges were upgraded following the receipt of an autopsy report that concluded the child died from drug and nicotine exposure, authorities said. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined that the little girl’s cause of death was “acute combined fentanyl and Xylazine overdose in addition to nicotine exposure; laboratory evidence of SARS-Covid 19 infection.”

Xylazine is a veterinary tranquilizer that has increasingly been used as a cutting agent in heroin.

According to a press release from the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office, deputies at approximately 9:54 a.m. on July 7 responded to a residence located in the 100 block of Aberfeldy Way in Kiln Creek regarding an emergency call about an infant that was not breathing. After first responders arrived on the scene, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel reached the residence and found the little girl unresponsive, authorities said. The girl was pronounced dead on the scene at approximately 10 a.m. by medics.

According to a report from the Daily Press, deputies initially took the Gunn and Raines into custody based on the conditions in which the child was living, with first responders described as being in “disarray.” The parents and the baby reportedly lived in a room in the home of Raines’ father, Timothy Lee Raines, a family medicine physician.

“A firefighter at the scene noted that lividity, the settling of blood post-mortem, had already set in on the front and back of the child’s body. Additionally, she noted that one of the child’s arms was particularly cold, which ‘struck her as off’ and the child’s face had ‘crease lines,'” the Daily Press reported. “There was a large amount of clothing, trash and unclean dishes along with an overflowing litter box. Additionally, cigarette butts and loose change were in the crib the child slept in, which was empty except for dry blankets with cigarette burn holes, piled upon urine-soaked blankets.”

Later reports said authorities also recovered “multiple used syringes as well as a plastic bin with new syringes” from inside of the room. Capsules which authorities believe contained heroin were also reportedly recovered from the room. The syringes and the alleged heroine were both reportedly within reach of the baby girl.

“It was particularly the area where the mother, the father and the baby were staying — in that one room,” Maj. Ron Montgomery reportedly said following the arrests. “That was where the living conditions were really bad.”

Gunn and Raines both reportedly admitted to using opioids in the three days prior to their daughter’s death.

Both parents were being held without bond at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail in Williamsburg on the felony neglect charges until Thursday, when authorities served them with homicide warrants.

While authorities initially said there was “absolutely no reason to believe” that Timothy Lee Raines was culpable in his granddaughter’s death, he was arrested a few weeks later and also charged with felony child neglect.

[images via Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.