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Lawrence couple held without bail after 1-year-old hospitalized for fentanyl exposure

A Lawrence couple was held without bail Tuesday on drug trafficking charges after their 1-year-old daughter tested positive over the weekend for fentanyl, according to authorities.

The suspects, Jennifer Ouch and McDanner Pereyra, both 27, appeared in Lawrence District Court, where not-guilty pleas were entered on their behalf. They were held pending detention hearings on Feb. 26.

According to a Lawrence police report, Ouch took her daughter to a local hospital Sunday and initially claimed the child had picked up an unknown pill on the floor at a Target location in Methuen.

A doctor at the hospital told police the girl’s urine drug screening came up positive for fentanyl, and an overall physical exam showed no signs of abuse, the report said.

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Pereyra later arrived at the hospital and spoke with police, telling them he and Ouch went to a Methuen trampoline park the day before with their two children and then went shopping at Target, according to the filing.

On the ride home, Pereyra said, Ouch told him that their daughter had put a blue pill in her mouth at the store, so he told her to take the girl to the hospital. He also admitted to smoking marijuana but denied there were other drugs in the couple’s residence, the report said.

Ouch told a similar story to police, records show, but the couple’s account began to unravel when investigators spoke with their 6-year-old son.

The boy told police his sister remained in a shopping cart the entire time at Target and that she made a “yucky face” later at their apartment as she sat next to drawers by a television, prompting Ouch to remove a blue pill from the girl’s mouth, the report said.

Pereyra spoke to police a second time and he “apologized for lying to us and stated that he was afraid of what DCF would do if they heard that [his daughter] found the pill at home,” the document said.

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Officers later searched the couple’s apartment, which they share with two roommates who recently moved in, and seized drugs and ammunition, according to the report.

Among the items seized at the Osgood Street address were two plastic bags containing a combined 43.9 grams of suspected fentanyl; a digital scale; a bag containing 17 white tablets with an imprint for promethazine hydrochloride; 2½ Xanax “bars;” and $896 in cash under the couple’s mattress, records show.

Police also seized a gun box under the couple’s bed that contained a high-capacity magazine loaded with 11 9mm rounds, a holster, and a safety manual for a semiautomatic pistol. In addition, elsewhere in the apartment police found four additional boxes of 7.62mm WPA rounds; 23 loose 9mm rounds; and 20 additional loose 7.62mm WPA rounds, the report said.

Pereyra told police all the ammunition was his and that he likes to go shooting, but he denied owning a gun, according to the report. He also “denied dealing Fentanyl or any other drugs outside of Marijuana,” the report said. “Mr. Pereyra indicated that he smokes Marijuana and sometimes sells it to friends.”

He also told police he had seen the bag of powder in the pantry, described by authorities as suspected fentanyl, but indicated it doesn’t belong to him and that “he doesn’t believe that it contains drugs.”

“Based on our training and experience,” police “believe the suspected Fentanyl was intended for sale,” the report said. “Mr. Pereyra and Ms. Ouch were charged with Trafficking Class ‘A’ Fentanyl over 10 grams, unlawful possession of ammunition and possession of a large capacity feeding device.”

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The state Department of Children and Families has taken custody of the couple’s children, and their 1-year-old daughter is expected to survive the alleged fentanyl exposure, police said.

The troubling case followed an earlier tragedy involving an 11-year-old girl who died in December after she suffered a likely exposure to fentanyl while visiting her great-uncle’s Lawrence residence. The great-uncle, Miguel Rivera, 58, is now charged with raping the girl and permitting injury to her.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Sabrina Schnur can be reached at sabrina.schnur@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sabrina_schnur.