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Tampa mom arrested after baby's death blamed on cocaine exposure

Megan Rand, 34, faces a felony charge of aggravated manslaughter of a child in the April 24 death of her 8-week-old infant son Brennen, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Trace amounts of cocaine were found in the baby's system, according to an arrest warrant. This photo of mother and newborn son was uploaded to her Facebook page on Feb. 24, two days after his birth. [Facebook]
Megan Rand, 34, faces a felony charge of aggravated manslaughter of a child in the April 24 death of her 8-week-old infant son Brennen, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Trace amounts of cocaine were found in the baby's system, according to an arrest warrant. This photo of mother and newborn son was uploaded to her Facebook page on Feb. 24, two days after his birth. [Facebook]
Published Oct. 17, 2018

TAMPA — A mother of three faces a manslaughter charge after investigators said trace amounts of cocaine were found in the blood, soiled diaper and baby bottle nipple of her dead 8-week-old newborn son.

Megan Rand, 34, was arrested Tuesday on a felony charge of aggravated manslaughter of a child by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office nearly six months after the April 24 death of her baby boy, Brennen.

He is the second of her three children to die, according to the mother's Facebook page. Rand wrote that her husband and 7-year-old daughter both died in 2016.

The arrest warrant details the case against the mother and what deputies say happened the day her infant died.

The mother called 911 at 2:25 p.m. and told dispatchers her newborn was unresponsive and had stopped breathing. Paramedics arrived at her parents' Town 'N Country home and rushed the child to St. Joseph's Hospital.

Doctors pronounced Brennen dead at 3:08 p.m. His body temperature was 105.7 degrees, they noted.

Later that day, deputies said Rand allowed them to search the home, take a sample of her blood and question her about her son's death. Rand said she was home alone with the baby. However, investigators noted that she appeared to be under the influence of drugs.

In her bedroom, deputies said they discovered a baby bottle next to a Brillo pad that appeared to have been used as a filter for smoking crack cocaine. In the kitchen trash, deputies said they found a glass crack pipe concealed in a dirty diaper.

That night, Rand admitted she had used the materials to smoke crack and attempted to hide them when deputies took her home from the hospital "because she was scared," the warrant said.

After the death of her newborn, the Department of Children and Families took Rand's other son from her and placed him in the custody of her mother.

A medical examiner conducted an autopsy on the child the next day, according to the report, and determined the cause of death was "diffuse pulmonary hemorrhage with hypothermia due to cocaine exposure."

But the manner of death — whether it was a natural death, an accidental one or homicide — was left "undetermined," the autopsy report said.

A blood test found less than 0.02 milligrams of cocaine in the baby's blood, the autopsy report said, which could be blamed on "environmental factors." He may have been exposed to the drug within six hours of his death.

The results of the mother's blood test revealed a small amount of "cocaine metabolite" in her system the day her son died, according to the warrant. That means the mother could have ingested cocaine up to three days before her son's death, the report said.

Rand wrote on Facebook on June 15 that she spoke with investigators about her son and "the unofficial cause of death is SIDS," or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

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"I love my children and would never hurt them!!!" she wrote. "It feels good to be getting vindicated!!

Then on Aug. 13, the warrant said results from drug tests performed throughout the home came back: Cocaine was found in the glass pipe in Rand's trash can, the urine in her baby's diaper and the baby bottle nipple.

State records show Rand pleaded no contest to cocaine possession in Flagler County in 2017. She violated the terms of a pre-trial diversion program and failed to appear in court, which led to an arrest warrant being issued.

She was arrested in Tampa on Sept. 27 on the Flagler warrant and a Hillsborough warrant for failing to appear in court for a petty theft charge.

Rand took to Facebook on May 5 and asked why she keeps losing those she loves:

"Its not fair!! My life puzzle was coming together and once again the pieces are all over the floor and I just don't know how to fix it ... What did I do in life to deserve such a harsh punishment? I have made mistakes but I always loved my kids. I'm not a bad mom and I would never, ever hurt my children."

Rand was booked into the Hillsborough County jail, where she was being held Wednesday in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Contact Anastasia Dawson at adawson@tampabay.com or (813) 546-6611. Follow @adawsonwrites.