Breast-Feeding Meth Mom Charged with Murdering Newborn

By Will Godfrey 08/05/11

California woman who used meth two days before her son's death faces nine years in prison.

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A 26-year-old California mother,  Maggie Jean Wortman, has been charged with second-degree murder—her 6-week-old son Anthony died after ingesting crystal-meth contained in her breast milk. The Humboldt County District Attorney's Office, which investigated the infant's death last November, found that the baby had died of  "methamphetamine toxicity." The Times Standard of Eureka, California, reported that Wortman tested positive for meth use six months into her pregnancy, and later admitted to police that she had used the drug "approximately" three times after her son was born. She said she last used meth as recently as just two days before Anthony's death. But her attorney contends that the drug's 9-to-12-hour half-life—the time when it's considered to be active—exonerates her. Wortman claimed she had no idea that her use of methamphetamine could harm her baby. But prosecutors say that Humboldt health officials had provided her with a leaflet spelling out the harmful effects of the drug, and after preliminary hearings this week the DA upgraded the charges against her from manslaughter to murder. Wortman's trial, scheduled to start in November, will be closely watched by other prosecutors across the country. While other states have gone after mothers who exposed their babies to meth, previous convictions have been for child endangerment, not murder. Wortman, who exclusively breast-fed her baby, may face a nine-year jail sentence if she is convicted. Her previous child, a 19-month-old daughter who also tested positive for meth, has been placed in foster care by the state.

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.