AKRON, Ohio - An Akron mother is charged with murder after her 17-month-old son died from a methamphetamine overdose. Three men are also facing charges for the toddler's death, which stunned people living in Akron's Goodyear Heights neighborhood.
Akron police said Heather Lerch, 20, and Ronald Legg, 22, were charged with murder and felony child endangering.
Randy Legg, 19, and Allen Kostra, 24, were charged with manslaughter.
Patrick Lerch was found unresponsive in his crib Feb. 26 at a home on St. Leger Avenue.
The Summit County Medical Examiner's Office said the cause of death for Patrick was "methamphetamine toxicity." The medical examiner said Patrick ingested methamphetamine during a period of abuse and neglect.
The toddler was taken to Akron Children's Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 11:17 p.m. on Feb. 26.
"The child got the ultimate sentence of death for something that was out of his control," Lt. Rick Edwards said.
Police said chemicals, bottles and other meth-making materials were found in the basement of the home.
In February, Lerch was arrested on multiple felony charges related to the meth lab, including child endangering and illegal assembly of chemicals. The Legg brothers and Kostra were arrested on the same charges.
Kimberly and Daniel Clark, of Barberton, are distant relatives of Lerch and allowed the mother and toddler to stay in their home for three months so they wouldn't have to live in a shelter. News of the meth overdose ruling brought Kimberly to tears. She was so upset that she had to leave work on Friday.
"I'm just devastated. He was the sweetest baby you'd ever want to meet," Kimberly said.
Kimberly said Lerch wasn't a good mother and had to be reminded to feed and bathe Patrick. When asked if Lerch was abusive, Kimberly said, "Just neglectful and not there."
Kimberly called Barberton police in January concerned that Patrick had a black eye after a visit to the Akron home on St. Leger.
"I had Barberton police out here and they didn't feel it was necessary to make a report or anything," Kimberly said.
On Friday, Barberton police released a call for service report from January 30. The officer wrote, "Heather Lerch spent the weekend with... boyfriend and the child fell on a toy. No obvious signs of abuse were found on the child's body and the child did not seem malnourished."
Kimberly said on February 13, Heather decided to move into the St. Leger home. Less than two weeks later, the toddler with sandy blond hair and brown eyes was dead.
"I thought the shock was over, but after hearing that he ingested meth, it's just icing on the cake," Daniel said.
"I want to see her get the full punishment of the law," Kimberly added.
The four suspects were in court Monday on drug charges. They're being held in the Summit County Jail.