Nov 18 – FORTY FORT – The parents of a child conceived through in vitro fertilization have been charged in connection with the death of their 16-day-old daughter, who authorities say died from drinking breast milk infused with fentanyl due to the drug abuse from her mother.
The arrests of Jennifer and Gary Travinski on Friday came nearly a year after police responded to the couple’s home on Highlark Drive in Larksville and revived the baby who was blue and not breathing when they arrived. Arya Jennifer Travinski died on November 28, 2021, at Lehigh Valley Cedar Crest Hospital near Allentown, a day after being driven there by ambulance because a helicopter ride was ruled out due to snow. Toxicology test results later showed that the infant was exposed to fentanyl while breastfed.
The Pennsylvania State Police and the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office have charged the child’s mother, Jennifer Travinski, 45, with third-degree murder for allegedly using fentanyl while breastfeeding her daughter. Travinski was also charged with aggravated assault for allegedly taking fentanyl after being told the illegal narcotics could be fatal to herself and her child. She and her husband were charged with child endangerment, possession with intent to deliver fentanyl.
District Judge David Barilla charged the couple and denied bail at the request of Assistant District Attorney Carly Hislop of the office’s Special Victims Unit. Hislop asked Barilla to either set a high bail or deny it because the man and woman were a danger to themselves with their drug use and Gary Travinski, 40, was a flight risk because of his job as an engineer that required him to travel out of state. The Travinskis were committed to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility.
After the arraignment, Hislop spoke about the complexity of the case and the time it took to prepare it.
The criminal charges included a lengthy investigation that included interviews, reviews of medical records and reports, and lab tests of suspected drug pouches stamped “White Castle,” “Band Aid,” and “Hipster” found throughout the home and breast milk in a refrigerator and seized with a search warrant last year.
“It’s taking a long time. We wanted to make sure we had everything, all our Ts crossed and dotted and ready and have a solid case. And charges are definitely appropriate for what happened here,” Hislop told reporters.
The couple went through the expensive process of conceiving with sperm from the father and an egg donated to the mother and endangered their child through their drug use, Hilsop added. “That’s the most disturbing thing of all, I think, that it wasn’t an accident. It was on purpose. So the allegations are definitely correct,” she said.
According to the complaint, Gary and Jennifer Travinski initially denied using illegal narcotics when interviewed by investigators. After the search, Gary Travinski agreed to have blood drawn for testing and admitted to investigators that he was taking fentanyl. His wife, who agreed to a blood test before the search, told a county detective that since her husband had admitted his drug use, she was okay with telling the detective that she “caught (her husband) about two months ago on sniffing unknown drugs”.
However, the complaint contains more information about Jennifer Travinski, saying she had a history of drug use and tested positive for fentanyl on November 23, 2021 after being tested for an allegation of drug use at Luzerne County Children and Youth. The results were received only after the child’s death. Medical records revealed that while Travinski went into labor on November 12, 2021, she also exhibited “withdrawal symptoms” and “drug-seeking behavior.”
The complaint further stated that in August of that year, a pregnant Travinski overdosed while vacationing in Delaware and sent to the Beebe Medical Center in Lewes, Del. was brought. She left the hospital against medical advice after admitting to using heroin and testing positive for fentanyl and benzodiazepine. . Travinski told hospital staff she would be taking a detox program in Pennsylvania. Before leaving, Travinski was told that failure to receive treatment could cause fetal withdrawal symptoms, brain damage, and fetal death. Her pre-visit diagnosis was “Drug use complicates pregnancy, 2nd trimester.”
In September, investigators received the Lehigh County Coroner’s Office Investigation Report, the complaint said. The report indicated that the child had healing rib fractures and that the blood tested positive for fentanyl, widely identified as illegally manufactured. The report said, “it is well documented in the literature that even lower doses of illicit fentanyl are associated with toxicity and death.” The cause of death was “adverse effects of fentanyl exposure complicating pneumonia,” and the manner of death was “accidental.”
According to the complaint, investigators spoke to Dr. Edward Mazuchowski, who said he inherited the case from pathologist Dr. Peter Williams who performed the autopsy on the baby’s body at the Lehigh County Coroners Office on November 30, 2021. Mazuchowski said that because fentanyl is a respiratory depressant, it cannot be separated from pneumonia. But he concluded that fentanyl was “directly part of the cause of death.”
The result of the Travinskis’ blood tests, on the bags found in the house and the breast milk seized during the search, came back positive for fentanyl, the complaint said.
Hislop noted that the breast milk was crucial to the study.
“I don’t know if we could ever test breast milk like in this case, to have it readily available. I’m not sure if it happens often, but we had all the evidence at our disposal to put all the dots together,” said Hislop.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.