4 charged in child’s drug death
Four people have been charged in the fentanyl death of a Nesquehoning toddler earlier this year.
Pennsylvania State Police at Lehighton charged Rebecca Lynn Walck, 21; Anthony Hannibal Pudvah, 30, both of Nesquehoning; and Gage Joshua Duch, 27; and Britney Grace Burke, 31, both of Lehighton, with involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of children and possession of drugs.
Duch also faces an additional charge of tampering with physical evidence in the Feb. 11 death of his 3-year-old son James.
According to affidavits filed by state police, the parents of the child are Burke and Duch, and the family lived at 121 S. Allen St. in Nesquehoning at the time of the incident. Walck and Pudvah also lived in the apartment and provided child care to the child on the day of his death.
Troopers said Burke called 911 to report the child unresponsive just before 7 p.m. on Feb. 11.
Nesquehoning police and EMS arrived and the child was transported to St. Luke’s Miners Campus in Coaldale, where he was pronounced dead after attempts to resuscitate him failed.
District Attorney Michael Greek requested the death investigation be handed over to state police.
During interviews, Burke and Duch lied to troopers about their drug use, and added that Walck and Pudvah visited the home to watch the child earlier that day, troopers said.
The pair also lied about Duch’s whereabouts at the time the child was found unresponsive.
Duch, upon his request, was taken to Burke’s parents’ home and family members said the child had no known illness, injuries or diseases that could have accounted for his death.
A search warrant of the home was executed early Feb. 12 and drug paraphernalia for heroin and fentanyl use was found within items belonging to Walck and Pudvah.
Later that day, Duch and Burke called troopers and admitted that they lied about their drug habits, their association with Walck and Pudvah and their activities on the day their son died.
The couple again noted that the child was left with Walck and Pudvah for a few hours before his death, but Duch then admitted to cleaning the scene and throwing away drug paraphernalia prior to troopers executing the search warrant.
On Feb. 14, an autopsy of the child was conducted and the cause of death was determined to be fentanyl and acetyl fentanyl toxicity and suspicious.
On March 12, Walck and Pudvah were taken into custody by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office on drug related charges and then interviewed by state police regarding the child’s death.
Walck said Duch and Burke were her drivers for the last four to six months and paid her and Pudvah with drugs.
Walck also said the pair moved in with Duch and Burke a few days earlier.
She told police about the drug use in the home and confirmed watching the child the morning of his death, but said he appeared healthy when she was watching him.
She then went back into her room when Duch and Burke returned home. A few hours later she and Pudvah transported Duch to a few locations to obtain drugs and it was while they were in Hazleton that they received a text from Burke saying the child was dead.
Walck said that she and Pudvah didn’t come forward earlier about this because they knew there was a warrant out for Pudvah’s arrest and she had open cases for other criminal matters.
Pudvah was also interviewed and told the same story as Walck, also saying that he, Walck and Duch were in Hazleton when they received a text from Burke about the child’s death.
Walck and Pudvah were arraigned before District Judge Casimir Kosciolek on Tuesday afternoon and sent to the Carbon County Correctional Facility after bail was denied.
Duch and Burke were also arraigned before Kosciolek Tuesday night and sent to the correctional facility after bail was denied.
Preliminary hearings for the four are now scheduled for 2 p.m. on June 3 before Kosciolek.