Commonwealth Journal

August 27, 2013

Parents arrested, 2 more sought after child drinks liquid fire

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — The parents of a small child that almost ingested dangerous drain cleaner are in custody, while authorities continue to seek two others involved in the alleged drug-related incident.

On Tuesday, the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department issued warrants for the arrest of Curtis W. Anderson, 23, Brittany N. Helton, 24, Brian K. Herrin, 36, and Krystal E. Hampton, 26, all of Old South U.S. 27 Loop 4, Burnside.

By mid-afternoon, Helton and Anderson, the parents of the 20-month-old child involved in the incident, had been picked up by deputies and taken to the sheriff’s office to be interviewed.

On Wednesday, August 21, just after midnight, the child was transported by Anderson, his father, to Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital for treatment of burns to the mouth, face, and chest, according to the sheriff’s office. The child was treated in the emergency room and then flown to the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington for treatment of the injuries.

Initial fears were that the child had ingested the acid, potentially leading to death, according to the sheriff’s office, but during treatment, doctors discovered that the acid had barely entered the mouth, burning the child’s lips, then spilled onto his chest and splashed onto his legs. This caused serious burns, but was not life-threatening.

Pulaski County Sheriff Todd Wood said that his investigators had been in contact with Helton’s mother, and that the two suspects were eventually located Tuesday afternoon at an apartment complex on McKee Street, after arrangements had been made previously for the two to potentially come to the sheriff’s office on their own.

This isn’t the first time Helton has been involved in a tragic circumstance involving one of her children. According to Wood, Helton was a subject in the May 21, 2012, accident in which a 3-year-old boy was killed at the SomerPlace Apartments in downtown Somerset.

Somerset Police said at that time that Helton accidentally backed over her son while trying to park her car, and that there was no indication that Helton was under the influence of any controlled substances at the time. No criminal charges came from the incident last year.

Wood, recalling the previous case, agreed that it was just a “tragic accident,” but noted that the current circumstances call into question Helton’s fitness as a parent due to the recent incident’s alleged connection to a methamphetamine operation.

An investigation by the sheriff’s Patrol Division, Criminal Investigation Division, Narcotics Division and the Department for Community Based Services was initiated after the 20-month-old was treated at UK, and several interviews were conducted with the mother and father of the child.

As a result, authorities were able to piece together what they believe to be the events leading to the incident. During the evening hours of August 20, the child’s mother, Helton, allegedly took the child to the residence of Herrin, a neighbor. During that visit, the child picked a cup up off a table that contained what was reported to be “liquid fire.” The child attempted to drink from the cup, which led to the acid burning the child’s mouth and lips. The child then dropped the cup, which led to it spilling on his chest and down onto his legs, according to the sheriff’s department.

“It was very fortunate that the 20-month-old child was not strong enough to hold the cup,” said Wood. “If he had (ingested the substance), I’m skeptical as to whether or not he would have survived.”

Immediately following the incident, Herrin and his friend Hampton allegedly fled the scene. Detectives have as of yet not been able to locate either of them for an interview.

A search warrant executed at the Herrin residence turned up several items used to manufacture methamphetamine, including muriatic acid, batteries, tubing, salt, and acetone, according to the sheriff’s department.

All four individuals involved have been charged with second-degree controlled substance endangerment to a child, a Class B felony. Herrin has also been charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, first offense, a Class B felony.

The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department is seeking the public’s help in locating Herrin and Hampton. Anyone with any information may call the sheriff’s office at 606-678-5145.

The investigation is continuing by the sheriff’s Criminal Investigation Division and Narcotics Division.