Whatcom Medical Examiner’s Office rules on the cause of death of 5-year-old Ferndale girl
Nearly two months after her death, and after three people were arrested for murder, the Whatcom County Medical Examiner’s Office has determined that the cause of death for a 5-year-old Ferndale girl was fentanyl intoxication.
Olivia R. Doane died March 8 from acute fentanyl intoxication, according to an email Monday from Deborah Hollis, chief investigator and operations manager with the county medical examiner’s office.
However, the office ruled the girl’s manner of death as undetermined.
Undetermined is used as a classification when the information pointing toward a manner of death is no more compelling than any others, such as homicide, accidental or suicide, Hollis said.
Prosecutors charged Melissa Ann Welch, 35, of Ferndale, Cody Curtis Craig, 32, of Bellingham, and Michael Wayne Doane, 33, of Ferndale, with one count each of first-degree murder April 7 in Whatcom County Superior Court for their alleged roles in the child’s death.
Each of the murder charges includes the aggravating factor that Welch, Craig and Doane knew or should have known that the child was particularly vulnerable, according to court records.
Welch and Doane are the girl’s biological parents and Craig is Welch’s boyfriend, court records show.
All three have entered not guilty pleas in their murder cases. They all remain incarcerated in the downtown Whatcom County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail each, according to county jail records.
Their jury trials have tentatively been set for June 12, court documents state.
When asked Tuesday for more information regarding why the medical examiner’s office ruled the child’s death as undetermined, Hollis said she was unable to comment further due to the pending criminal cases.
The Bellingham Herald has reached out to the Ferndale Police Department for more information.
Shortly after 9:15 a.m. on March 8, Ferndale police responded to a home in the 2300 block of Douglas Avenue for a death investigation of a 5-year-old girl, The Herald previously reported.
Ferndale police were told Welch had called 911 and reported that her daughter was dead, court records state.
When Ferndale police arrived, they found the girl lying in her bed. Fire department personnel arrived and confirmed the child was dead.
Due to foam in the child’s mouth, police suspected a possible drug overdose or poisoning, court records show.
Security camera footage confirmed the girl was “happy and healthy as described” the evening of March 7, leading police to believe the child consumed fentanyl sometime during the night, the records state.
During a search of the residence, investigators found drug paraphernalia, including a butane lighter and foils, and suspected narcotics in multiple locations around the home. The paraphernalia and drug tested positive for fentanyl, methamphetamine and methadone, and were in areas accessible to the 5-year-old child and Welch’s 8-year-old daughter, the court records state.
Fentanyl powder was also found on the garage floor three feet away from flower and smiley face stickers, Nerf darts and jellybeans, The Herald previously reported.
The 8-year-old sibling was taken by Ferndale police and Child Protective Services and placed with family members.
Welch and Craig are facing additional charges in a separate case alleging they continued selling narcotics after the child’s death, court documents show.
Welch was charged April 24 with two counts of delivery of a controlled substance — fentanyl, one count of delivery of a controlled substance — methamphetamine and one count of delivery of a counterfeit controlled substance — Oxycodone.
Craig was also charged April 24 and is facing three counts of delivery of a controlled substance — fentanyl, two counts of delivery of a controlled substance — methamphetamine and two counts of delivery of a counterfeit controlled substance — Oxycodone.
The Whatcom County Gang and Drug Task Force and the Drug Enforcement Administration started an investigation in March into Craig, who was a suspected mid-level drug dealer in the Whatcom County area, according to court records.
Because Craig had provided his phone number to detectives during the investigation into the child’s fentanyl death, drug task force and DEA officials were able to identify Craig as a previously unknown drug redistributor connected to a recent large-scale trafficking investigation. The trafficking investigation included the seizure of large quantities of narcotics and hundreds of thousands of dollars of drug proceeds, the court records state.
Days after the 5-year-old’s death, Welch and Craig were observed by drug task force and DEA officials selling narcotics, police said.
Officials then conducted a controlled buy of fentanyl-laced pills and fentanyl-laced powder from Welch and Craig during the second week of March, court documents state.
Both Welch and Craig have entered not guilty pleas in their drug cases.