Mom sentenced after 2-month-old dies from meth-tainted breast milk

Ashlee Rans
Ashlee Rans(Marshall County Prosecutor's Office)
Published: Jul. 31, 2020 at 10:56 AM EDT
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PLYMOUTH, Ind. (WNDU) - A Plymouth mom has been sentenced to 30 years in prison after her 2-month-old child died from meth-tainted breast milk.

With ten years suspended and good time credit at 15%, 36-year-old Ashlee Rans must serve at least 17 years imprisonment.

Rans had a previous meth-related conviction in Elkhart County, and part of her sentence was to successfully complete the “Mothers Against Methamphetamine” course in 2016. 

Before being discharged from the hospital with her newborn, Rans acknowledged in writing the dangers of drugs passing from mother to infant through breast milk, according to the Marshall County prosecutor.

Rans has three other children. She is currently pregnant and due in September 2020.

From E. Nelson Chipman, Jr., Marshall County Prosecuting Attorney:

Ashlee Rans, 36 of Plymouth, Indiana, was sentenced today in Marshall Superior Court 1 by Judge Robert Bowen. Rans was accused of ingesting methamphetamine and subsequently breastfeeding her two-month-old child, resulting in the child’s death. After previously pleading guilty, the terms of the sentence were left to the discretion of Judge Bowen. Rans has three other children who are in their biological father’s custody. Rans is pregnant and due in September 2020.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tami Napier and defense counsel Tom Black argued their respective positions before Judge Bowen.  Black emphasized that “[Rans] made a full confession and accepted complete responsibility for the enormity of her actions.”  Chief Deputy Tami Napier countered, “The troubling issue in this case is that infants are by far the most vulnerable members of our community, and the fact that [the child’s] only source of nourishment was her mother’s breast milk, who knowingly used methamphetamine. These are actions that go beyond criminal.”

Napier emphasized Rans had a previous meth related conviction in Elkhart County, and part of her sentence there was to successfully complete the course “Mothers Against Methamphetamine” in 2016.  In addition, information was obtained that before hospital discharge with her new born, Rans acknowledged in writing the dangers of drug usage passing from mother to infant through breast milk.  Napier argued that evidence established Rans was well aware of the lethal effects methamphetamine poses to breastfeeding infants.

Prosecuting Attorney Nelson Chipman previously noted, “breast feeding is the most fundamental act of human nurturing.  It should be safe; it must be safe.  This two month old child did not stand a chance to ward off the poisonous effects of methamphetamine intoxication.”

On December 19, 2019, Rans placed a 911 call requesting medical attention. Rans reported she was asleep and rolled over onto the infant who was then cold and not breathing. Upon arrival, emergency medical personnel immediately determined that the child was deceased.  In an interview with Detective Jeff Snyder of the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department, Rans denied any alcohol or drug use and stated she had been breast feeding the infant since birth with no other supplements. Upon further questioning, Rans admitted to marijuana usage approximately two days before the incident and acknowledged that she was aware of the possibility of transferring ingested drugs during breast feeding.

After the December 20, 2019 autopsy, Dr. Thomas Sozio determined the cause of death was acute methamphetamine intoxication. According to Dr. Sozio, any amount of methamphetamine in a two-month-old infant’s system would be deadly.  Methamphetamine can pass through breast milk, and it would be present in the system for up to three days. Det. Snyder, upon receiving the autopsy report, took Rans into custody. After Det. Snyder explained the toxicology report, Rans eventually admitted that she had been an occasional drug user for the last twenty years but denied being an addict. When asked about her drug use on or around December 19, 2019, the day of the infant’s death, Rans admitted to using methamphetamine two days prior.

In determining an appropriate sentence, Judge Bowen stated he weighs the aggravating and the mitigating circumstances. As an aggravating circumstance, “[Rans] knew the risks of taking drugs and the effects that it could have on [her] child while breastfeeding,” but was mitigated by the fact that “she was honestly remorseful and accepted responsibility by pleading guilty.” Judge Bowen concluded the appropriate term for the Level 1 Felony was the advisory sentence of thirty years imprisonment at the Indiana Department of Corrections, with ten years suspended. With good time credit at 15%, Rans must serve at least seventeen years imprisonment.

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