Kimberly C. Moore
The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.
WINTER HAVEN — A 36-year-old pregnant Winter Haven woman was found passed out from a cocaine overdose in a running car with the air-conditioning off Monday, with two children under 5 years old crying and sweating in the sweltering vehicle, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said.
“I’m both furious and heartbroken about this,” Sheriff Grady Judd said in a press release. “Two small children and a baby who was due to be born soon were put into serious danger, all because this woman wanted to get high. She chose cocaine over the safety of these little ones.”
A bystander at the Publix on Spirit Lake Road spotted Marsha Forrester slumped over the car’s steering wheel just before 4 p.m. This person then saw Polk County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Lance Meachum and called him to the vehicle. The temperature was 90 degrees, with a heat index of 99 degrees.
Meachum radioed for an ambulance and pulled Forrester from the car. He recognized symptoms of a narcotics overdose, including pinpoint pupils and labored breathing, so he administered two doses of Narcan, a life-saving medicine for those who have overdosed. The two children were uninjured, according to the sheriff’s office. A bystander helped to cool them down and a Department of Children and Families worker took custody of them.
Forrester was rushed to Winter Haven Hospital and then taken to Regency Women’s Hospital, also in Winter Haven, where a successful emergency C-section was performed so doctors could remove and treat the baby, a boy. PCSO reported he was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital in Tampa, where he is intubated and in critical condition.
Deputy Michael Brooks interviewed Forrester at Regency Women’s Hospital. She allegedly told him that she had used cocaine early in this pregnancy, but stopped. She admitted starting again two days prior to the emergency and used it several times throughout last weekend.
Forrester also allegedly said that on Monday, she picked up the two children then drove to the Circle K on Spirit Lake Road, leaving them in the hot car while she went into the store to use cocaine because “she did not want to do it in front of them.” The method of use was unclear. Then she drove across the road to Publix, where she said she immediately passed out.
According to the arrest affidavit, Forrester told the deputy that she has never had a reaction like this before.
Brooks arrested Forrester on Thursday evening, charging her with negligent child abuse without great bodily harm, a third-degree felony.
Forrester works as a certified nursing assistant at Consulate Healthcare. Her criminal history includes one prior felony charge for robbery and two misdemeanor charges for prostitution and battery. The state attorney either chose not to prosecute or sent her to a diversion program. She remains in the Polk County Jail infirmary.
PCSO spokesman Brian Bruchey said the two older children are being cared for by their relatives.
Kimberly C. Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-802-7514. Follow her on Twitter at @KMooreTheLedger.
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