Marshfield infant poisoned by parents with opiates in formula bottle, authorities say

BROCKTON — The parents of a 5-month-old girl born addicted to heroin were accused Friday of causing the infant’s death in 2011 by feeding her a bottle of formula contaminated with opiates in the squalid Marshfield apartment they shared with eight other adults, some of whom were active heroin users.

Ryan J. Barry and Ashley Cyr were arraigned in Plymouth Superior Court, where each pleaded not guilty to a single count of manslaughter. Cyr also pleaded not guilty to a single count of reckless endangerment of a child, a charge based on the allegation that she snorted heroin off the cover of a child’s book and left the book, with a heroin residue, in reach of the couple’s children.

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When the baby, Mya Barry, was born, the Department of Children and Families investigated the couple and gave custody of her to her father on the condition Cyr did not go near the child, prosecutors said in court. But Cyr lived with Barry and the infant, prosecutors alleged, a fact the couple lied about to the agency.

In a statement Friday evening, officials at the state’s child protection agency said the couple’s two older children, aged 4 and 3, are now in their custody. The statement gave no information about the agency’s involvement with the couple prior to Mya’s death or any more information about the older children.

Authorities allege that Barry and Cyr were living with their three children in an 8-by 10-foot bedroom in a two-
bedroom apartment. The bedroom where they were living, which they shared with several other adults, as well as the children, was filthy and filled with soiled clothes and dirty dishes, prosecutors said. There was no crib for the baby.

First Assistant Plymouth District Attorney Frank Middleton said that when Marshfield police responded to a call about an unresponsive infant on Sept. 23, 2011, they found three grams of cocaine and buckets of used and unused syringes in the couple’s bedroom and elsewhere in the apartment.

“You’ve got heroin. You’ve got needles. You’ve got children,’’ Middleton said. “You’ve got a recipe for disaster.’’

Middleton said caseworkers from the Department of Children and Families told Cyr after she gave birth that she could not see her baby if she was an active heroin user. Cyr attended a drug treatment program after the birth, he said, but soon relapsed.

Middleton said that DCF remained involved with the family and conducted site visits.

In court Friday, Cyr sometimes shook her head in apparent disagreement when Middleton said she was a heroin addict who used the drug even after learning she was pregnant with Mya and nearly up to her birth.

Middleton said Mya was hospitalized for a time after her birth so she could be treated for addiction. According to Middleton, Barry suggested the baby’s death came after she was poisoned by heroin mixed, perhaps inadvertantly, with four ounces of formula he said he gave her shortly after noon on the day she died.

According to Middleton, Barry said he used water from an open bottle he found in the apartment to make the formula and suggested that may have been how the heroin got into it.

Someone else living in the apartment may have washed a dirty syringe in the water, contaminating it, Barry said to investigators, according to Middleton.

Middleton said an autopsy found morphine, the chemical form heroin takes when ingested, in Mya’s internal organs.

Barry’s defense attorney, Liam Scully, said that his client did not put the heroin in the bottle and that prosecutors do not know who did. He also said that Barry, who Middleton said was screaming when first responders arrived at his apartment, was devastated by his daughter’s death.

“He has been personally destroyed by his loss,’’ Scully said.

Scully questioned why so much time has elapsed since the autopsy that ruled her death a homicide in December 2012 and the issuance of charges against his client.

“Why are we here months, years, later?’’ he said. “They [prosecutors] don’t really know what happened. They can’t tell what happened. They can’t figure out what happened.’’

Cruz told reporters before the arraignment that the investigation was conducted methodically and patiently, a process that cannot be concluded quickly.

“It’s been a very thorough investigation, and sometimes it takes time,’’ Cruz said. “That’s what happened here.”

Cyr’s attorney, Bethany Rogers, did not challenge the government’s allegations and said her boss, Quincy attorney Daniel O’Malley, has been communicating with prosecutors.

Defense lawyers asked for bail to be set at $10,000 cash, while Middleton requested $200,000 cash for Barry and Cyr. Judge Raymond Veary set bail for each defendant at $200,000.

Veary said he believed both Barry and Cyr were living the “lifestyle of addiction and are controlled by addiction.”

“They do not, at this point, have control over their lives,” he said.

It was not the first time Barry has been in trouble with the law. According to Norfolk Superior Court records, he pleaded guilty in January 2006 to raping a child.

Barry admitted he raped a girl under age 16 after spending several hours consuming drugs and alcohol with her and her friends in Quincy in 2004.

He was sentenced to 2½ years in the Norfolk County House of Correction and ordered to serve 15 months of that sentence and was placed on probation for three years, according to court records.

He also pleaded guilty last year to possession of heroin, according to court records.

The couple are both unemployed and were arrested Friday morning in Quincy, where they were living, authorities said.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@
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