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Parents accused of manslaughter in Pasco toddler’s drug poisoning death

Video from a security camera shows the father dropping a piece of tinfoil and the boy, 14 months old, putting it into his mouth later, police said.
 
Andrea Smarr, left, and John Valiquette, right, have been arrested by New Port Richey police on a charge of aggravated manslaughter of a child.
Andrea Smarr, left, and John Valiquette, right, have been arrested by New Port Richey police on a charge of aggravated manslaughter of a child. [ Pasco County Sheriff's Office ]
Published March 22, 2022|Updated March 22, 2022

NEW PORT RICHEY — A mother and father have been arrested on a charge of aggravated manslaughter of a child after their 14-month-old son died from drug poisoning in January.

James Valiquette was found dead the morning of Jan. 6 with a “thick, milky mucous” around his mouth and nose, an arrest affidavit said. An autopsy report said the toddler died from a combination of fentanyl and methamphetamine.

The affidavit gives this account:

A security camera recorded the family’s living room the night before the boy was found dead. He was in the care of Andrea Smarr, his mother, who fell asleep on the floor at 9:55 p.m., leaving the toddler to roam freely.

Video showed him picking up a piece of tinfoil from the ground and putting it in his mouth around 10:17 p.m. Five minutes later, Smarr was seen with a “pipe commonly used to smoke methamphetamine” in her hand. The affidavit says she “quickly” removed something from James Valiquette’s mouth before taking him to his crib.

Smarr, 26, left her son and went to sleep, the affidavit said. A recording from the boy’s room showed he was alive and moving when she placed him in bed.

Police received a call at 10:50 a.m. the following morning that the boy was unresponsive.

A detective from the New Port Richey Police Department came to the family’s home at 5107 Hillside Drive and found the boy dead. Fentanyl and methamphetamine were found during a search of the home.

A review of the security camera video showed that, on the morning of Jan. 5, the boy’s father, John Valiquette, handled the piece of tinfoil his son later placed in his mouth. The father dropped the tinfoil on the ground at 4:45 a.m., fell asleep and never picked it up, the affidavit said.

John Valiquette, 24, was arrested two months later, March 15, on charges of possessing fentanyl, lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD, cocaine and methamphetamine. Two days later, Thursday, the manslaughter charge was added. He was being held Tuesday in lieu of more than $250,000 bail.

Andrea Smarr was arrested on the manslaughter charge Monday. Her records were not immediately available.

A public defender has been appointed to represent John Valiquette, court records show.

James Valiquette was at least the second toddler to die from drug poisoning during a four-month span in Tampa Bay. A 15-month-old Brandon girl died in October from fentanyl poisoning.