A Shamokin couple charged in Cumberland County were both high while their five-month-old daughter was dying in her crib after ingesting marijuana and asphyxiating on vomit in 2016, according to police in Silver Spring Township.
Although they claimed to have tried to save the girl, the mother and father of the infant waited more than an hour before calling 911, and rigor mortis had already started to set as paramedics rushed the child to the hospital, police said.
The father, Derrick Lee Yohe, 29, is charged with criminal homicide while the mother Emily Joy Kirby, 28, is facing aggravated assault charges. Yohe and Kirby, who have been living in an East Sunbury Street home in Shamokin, were living at 8 Bay Berry Drive in Silver Spring Township when the incident occurred in August 2016.
A doctor determined in 2016 that the cause of death was complications of asphyxia and the manner of death homicide. An addendum sent in January by the county coroner showed that additional testing of the soft tissue behind the eyes of the child revealed a "traumatic brain injury in the days, weeks or months before the child's death," police said.
The age of the girl was not identified in the police report, but an obituary was found online that matched the initials provided by police in the report, the date of death and the parents' names of Yohe and Kirby. The child's birth date was Feb. 29, 2016.
Child found unresponsive
Police were dispatched to the Silver Spring Township home at 10:52 p.m. Aug. 16, 2016, for an infant in cardiac arrest. They found the child was unresponsive, pale and bluish in color. Yohe was also attempting CPR and claiming that his daughter was showing signs of life, police said.
Life-saving efforts were performed at the residence and in the ambulance while the infant was being transported to UPMC Pinnacle West Shore in Mechanicsburg. The child was pronounced dead at 11:51 p.m. by Dr. Gerald Fronko but a paramedic noticed the onset of rigor mortis in the ambulance, police said.
An autopsy performed on Aug. 18, 2016, by forensic pathologist Dr. Wayne Ross in Dauphin County showed that the girl was "well built and well-nourished," but had dirt and debris in her hair and folds of her skin. The girl has multiple injuries on her head and neck, and the cause of death was "complications of asphyxia" and the manner ruled a homicide, Ross reported.
The child consumed marijuana by swallowing the substance. The evidence of THC found in the gastric fluid could not have been from second-hand smoke, according to Ross.
The girl's clothing and crib area were wet with urine and saliva. The diaper the girl was wearing was full of urine and fecal matter. Ross reported the amount of bodily fluid on the bedding itself would be consistent with the body excreting during strangulation.
Parents waited to call for help
Yohe told police he dozed off at 5 p.m. and woke up at 8:45 p.m. When he checked on his daughter, he said she was still sleeping and sucking on her finger. When Kirby came home at 9:10 p.m. from work, they both smoked marijuana before taking their other daughter to bed at 9:30 p.m. When Yohe turned to give the youngest daughter a bottle, he said he found her "cold, blue and stiff."
Yohe said he yelled for someone to call 911 and then tried to get the vomit out of her mouth. He said he gave her CPR while waiting for the ambulance, police said.
Police noted that this was around 9:30 p.m., but the Cumberland County 911 Center was not contacted until 10:50 p.m. Rigor mortis, which one of the paramedics recognized in the ambulance, takes two to four hours to set in, police said.
The couple and their child also lived with the girl's grandfather, James Kirby, and the girl's 4-year-old sister, police said.
Police also said the house was disorganized and messy, had cat feces on the floor and every room smelled of marijuana. Police found digital scales, marijuana, and brownies laced with marijuana.
Medical records indicate that the girl was born with THC in her system. Kirby admitted to smoking marijuana while pregnant, claiming she did research that told her it was healthy for the baby, police said.
Chief: 'Justice for this infant.'
Yohe was arraigned on Thursday and committed to Cumberland County Prison in Carlisle after bail was denied by Judge Kathryn H. Silcox.
Kirby was picked up by Shamokin police at 8:55 p.m. Thursday and remained in Northumberland County Jail in Coal Township until she was transported for arraignment at 1 p.m. Friday in front of District Judge Susan K. Day in Holly Springs. She was committed to Cumberland County Prison in lieu of $100,000 unsecured bail.
"It's been nearly three full years, and we're glad to move forward so we can get justice for this infant," said Silver Spring Township Police Chief Chris Raubenstine.
Shamokin Police Chief Darwin Tobias III said Silver Spring Township Police notified them that Kirby was wanted.
Tobias said the couple moved into the city earlier this year, and police were called to the house once in May.
Yohe was charged with six felonies: One count of criminal homicide, two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated assault against a victim less than 13 years old, and one count of endangering the welfare of children. Kirby was charged with three felonies: one count of aggravated assault, one count of aggravated assault against a victim less than 13 years old and one count of endangering the welfare of children. Both individuals are also facing three misdemeanors each: recklessly endangering another person, personal use of a small amount of marijuana and use and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The charges were filed by Silver Spring Township Detective Seth Weikert. Preliminary hearings for Yohe and Kirby are both scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday: Yohe will be in front of Silcox and Kirby in front of Day.