A 32-year-old Norco woman who abused and allowed her 17-month-old daughter to ingest a fatal dose of fentanyl was bound for state prison today to serve a sentence of 15 years to life behind bars.
Jennifer Johanna Allen pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder for the death of her daughter, identified in court documents only as "J.A."
Allen admitted the murder count under a plea agreement with the Riverside County District Attorney's Office. In exchange for her admission, prosecutors dropped a child cruelty count against the defendant, as well as a sentence-enhancing great bodily injury allegation.
During a hearing at the Riverside Hall of Justice, Superior Court Judge Matthew Perantoni certified the terms of the plea deal and imposed the sentence stipulated by law.
According to sheriff's Sgt. Steve Brosche, patrol deputies were called to Allen's home in the 100 block of Eighth Street, near Crestview Drive, on the afternoon of May 9 to investigate reports of a child in medical distress.
Brosche said deputies found J.A. unconscious and unresponsive. Efforts by county fire paramedics to resuscitate the baby girl failed.
"During the course of the investigation, evidence was obtained showing fentanyl played a role in the juvenile's death,'' the sergeant said.
Allen was taken into custody without incident.
She had no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County.
According to public safety officials, there were 503 confirmed fentanyl-related fatalities countywide last year, compared to just under 400 in 2021, a 200-fold increase from 2016, when there were only two.
Fentanyl is manufactured in overseas labs, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which says the synthetic opioid is smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border by cartels. The drug is 80-100 times more potent than morphine and can be mixed into any number of street narcotics and prescription drugs, without a user knowing what he or she is consuming. Ingestion of only two milligrams can be fatal.
Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans between 18 and 45 years old.