Even as he took his first breaths, Mason Marquez was paying for his mother’s drug habit.
The infant was classified as a “substance exposed newborn” after blood from his umbilical cord tested positive for cocaine, cannabis and an opioid used to treat drug addiction, according to a Florida Department of Children and Families report. There were also concerns his mother, Burgandie Marquez, was under the influence when she visited the newborn as he recovered in the hospital.
He was just 5-months old when he died Sept. 30 after his mother violently shook his head during an angry phone call with the child’s father, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. She has been charged with first-degree murder.
Child welfare workers were aware of the mother’s drug use. The boy’s family was the subject of five reports to the state’s abuse hotline over a 17-month period, DCF records show. Mason was in the custody of his father but suffered his fatal injuries during a three-day visit with his mother.
As required by state law, Department Secretary Chad Poppell will deploy a team to review the performance of child welfare agencies. The team has 30 days to file the report.
“We are devastated by Mason’s horrific death and grieving with those who loved him,” said DCF spokeswoman Aly Coleman.
The most recent report on the family was filed in April after the mother tested positive for drugs during childbirth.
Burgandie Marquez said she did not use cocaine and told investigators her marijuana joint must have been laced. As a result of the investigation, the family was referred to Safe at Home, a program that counsels families at risk of having their children removed.
Burgandie Marquez refused to participate during the month the family was in the program, the DCF report states. Their involvement ended at the father’s request. He and Burgandie Marquez had separated and Safe at Home staffers determined that he could care for the children, the DCF report states.
Mason’s father, who lives in Pasco County, allowed him to visit with his mother on Sept. 23 as he was the “easier” of the two children they have in common to care for, the report states. Also, the mother was living with her stepfather and would not be caring for the infant by herself.
During a phone call with Mason’s father on Sept. 26, she intentionally and forcefully jerked the child up from the ground twice causing the child’s head to snap backward, detectives said. She then placed the child underneath her arm and ran up and down the stairs inside the residence allowing the child’s head to bounce up and down without support.
The boy had seizures the next morning, detectives said, but Marquez didn’t seek medical attention. She was at a gas station later that day when he seized again and paramedics took him to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa. He died three days later after being taken off life support.
Marquez has a history of arrests in Florida and has spent time in state prison, according to records. Most recently, Pinellas deputies said they found crack cocaine, marijuana and a crack pipe on her after she was arrested in February 2018 on a charge of driving with a suspended license. She pleaded guilty to the drug and driving charges.
A family member has set up GoFundMe campaign to raise money to help pay for a funeral for “Baby Mason.”