Infant Starves to Death at Home Days After Parents Fatally OD on Heroin at the Same Time
Pennsylvania authorities believe a 5-month-old girl may have been left alone for as many as four days — starving and dehydrated — before dying, after her parents fatally overdosed on heroin nearly two weeks ago, PEOPLE confirms.
The small body of Summer Chambers was found Thursday inside a bassinet in the upstairs bedroom of a Johnstown, Pennsylvania, home, according to police. The remains of her 19-year-old mother, Chelsea Cardaro, were found in a neighboring bathroom while her father, Jason Chambers, 27, was found lifeless on the first floor.
Local pathologists estimated Summer’s parents had been dead a week by the time a friend found them, according to Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan. Authorities believe the mother and father died almost simultaneously, Callihan says.
“It’s so sad and really illustrates just how bad the heroin epidemic is, not only here but across the country,” Callihan tells PEOPLE.
“Had they not died within minutes of each other, we believe one would have called 911 for help for the other,” Callihan says, adding, “The pathologists said a child can live a couple of days without food or milk. She was only 5 months old, so she was on her back … she had no way to move from that bassinet.”
“This was a picture in my mind I’d rather forget,” Callihan says.
Summer succumbed to dehydration and starvation, according to officials. PEOPLE was unable to reach Summer’s grandparents for comment Tuesday.
Callihan says a friend was called to check on Chambers and Cardaro when the couple, who had recently moved to Pennsylvania from New York, failed to show up for planned holiday festivities.
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“Neighbors didn’t think it was out of the ordinary that they didn’t see them around, because they were traveling to New York for Christmas,” Callihan says. “Someone called one of their friends, who opened a window and climbed inside.”
The friend found all three bodies and immediately called 911.
Callihan says police recovered “evidence of drug use and heroin” from the couples’ home and believes the two “were using a substance that was obviously laced with something.” Tests are being performed on the heroin that was removed from the residence to determine if other chemicals were present, she says.
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According to Callihan, police had been called to the couples’ home before: Last month, Chambers overdosed on heroin and responding police and EMS technicians revived him using Narcan, a heroin overdose antidote.
State child welfare authorities were contacted after Chambers overdosed, Callihan says. Officials visited the home on Dec. 7 and “felt everything was appropriate,” and Cardaro “denied being a drug user.”
In an email to PEOPLE, Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services spokeswoman Rachel Kostelac declined to comment on Summer’s death, citing an ongoing investigation.