Parents enter pleas. are sentenced, in child’s overdose death
By Joe Gorman
Joshua Essad decided to change his mind and plead guilty in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to charges relating to the opiate overdose death of his daughter when he learned the child’s mother would receive less prison time than him.
Mark Lavelle, Essad’s lawyer, told Judge R. Scott Krichbaum on Friday his client even offered to do more than the four years prosecutors were recommending for his sentence if it would mean Sara Loth, 32, the mother of his other four children, would receive less prison time.
Essad, 31, received a sentence of four years in prison on charges of reckless homicide and endangering children. Loth received a sentence of two years on the same charges. Prosecutors dropped a charge of involuntary manslaughter, and the sentences were jointly recommended to Judge Krichbaum, who upheld the recommendations.
The two turned down plea bargains Wednesday that would have given them both sentences of four years in prison. The pleas headed off a trial slated to begin Monday.
The two pleaded guilty to the death of their 16-month-old daughter, Isabelle Essad, who died after being taken to a hospital in July by ambulance from the couple’s Burbank Avenue home.
A coroner’s report completed in December ruled the child died of “carfentanil toxicity.” Carfentanil is a synthetic opiate more powerful than heroin.
Neither police nor prosecutors were able to figure out how the child came into contact with the carfentanil. They found no trace of drugs in the West Side home when they searched it with the consent of the couple the day the child died.
Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer McLaughlin said she was recommending a high sentence for Essad because of his history of illicit drug use, noting he had to be revived with the opiate antidote naloxone in February 2017 and in June about a month before Isabelle died.
Although Loth was on suboxone at the time, which is used to treat heroin addiction, McLaughlin said she was taking it under a doctor’s care and was not home when Isabelle became ill. Essad was home with the children that day, McLaughin said.
“When you’re getting your drugs from the street, it was more of a risk that it was him who brought the drugs into the house,” McLaughlin said.
Neither Essad nor Loth said anything before sentencing.
Judge Krichbaum said he believed the child’s death was “not intentional,” but he added as the child’s parents, they are responsible and he thought the charges and sentences were the right ones. He acknowledged some people may think the couple got off lightly.
“Losing a child and going to the penitentiary for that is a punishment I don’t think very few people can imagine,” Judge Krichbaum said.
After the sentencing, Essad’s brother, Jerald Essad, said Isabelle’s death is a tragedy, adding the couple care a great deal for their children.
Jerald Essad said he does not know how Isabelle could have come into contact with the carfentanil. He said he thinks the carfentanil somehow got on something that was taken into the house and Isabelle came in contact with it.