Parents’ Pot Use Leads to Neglect, Death in Fires, Part 2

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(Part 1 shows child justice failures in Court. Part 2 of this series is about neglected children who died in fires. Part 3 covers children who die in hot cars and in drownings. Part 4 explains parents who are addicted or psychotic from marijuana. Part 5 shows how children die through violence related to pot. Part 6 presents a solution. Download our updated fact sheet on 80 deaths from marijuana. Read a previous article,Three Children Die in Colorado.)

43 Unnecessary Deaths, the Innocent Victims of Parents’ Pot Habits

On January 13, 2014, two-year old Levi Welton tragically died in a fire in Colorado while his parents smoked pot. Also in January, 2014, Heather Jensen was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of her sons, ages 2 and 4. The Jensen boys died in a hot car while their mom left them and smoked pot — a few weeks after Colorado’s historic vote to legalize marijuana.

The stories were in the Denver news the same month that recreational marijuana stores opened in Colorado, January 2014.  The national press ignored these two horror stories with a marijuana connection, but made a huge issue of marijuana commercialization, the story promoted by the marijuana industry.
The Sterling Colorado home where Levi Welton died on January 13, 2014. Two-year-old Levi hid in the closet while his 5-year old brother survived. Screenshot News7

 Getting to the Truth

Since Colorado and Washington voted to legalize pot, dozens of children have died nationwide because their parents’ or caretaker’s pot use took priority over them. This series profiles 43 children who died….and a few who survived.   An infant was inside the house when a hash oil lab exploded in Puyallup, WA, on May 20, 2014. (watch the video)  The baby survived, but the blast was huge. Extracting butane hash oil is very dangerous. See Komo News photo above.  

Many of the deaths occurred because of negligence by stoned parents who forgot about their kids. The claim that pot is “no worse than alcohol or “safer than alcohol”  has misled a generation of young adults who are now having children. Eight of the deaths were caused by fires and 6 happened to children left in hot cars. There were 5 drownings and 18 violent deathsThree babies didn’t survive infancy because of their mothers’ pot use.  At least 5 of the deaths occurred in Colorado, and 8 in California which has the nation’s oldest and largest “medical” marijuana program.
What type of society are we to let this happen while the marijuana promoters are intent on covering up the truth?

Here’s an example of how marijuana-impairment isn’t taken seriously. In California,  a 16-month-old toddler died in the care of a babysitter who went outside to smoke pot on Nov. 20, 2013. The sitter went into her niece’s car to smoke marijuana for 35 minutes, while leaving Manny Mercado inside. The baby later came outside without being noticed.  The visitor’s car ran over him, crushing his skull. The babysitter was acquitted in two trials.

Chris Welton, Logan County Sheriff
Julia Welton
Julia Welton, Logan County Sheriff



Marijuana in Child Custody, Visitation and Protection Services

Ironically, Levi Welton, the 2-year-old Colorado boy who died in a fire right after legal pot stores opened, had recently returned to his parent’s house from foster care. He tested positive for THC in the hair a week before the fire incident that killed him. Child Protection Services often find themselves making difficult decisions, but states with generous tolerance of marijuana make their jobs more difficult.

According to California Alliance for Drug-Endangered Children, 12 children were injured in hash oil explosions since 2013, and one died in 2014.*  When medical marijuana users and  “patients” use marijuana to make “dabs” or hash oil, they use flammables such as butane. Adults die most frequently from hash oil fires, but last year 41 hash oil labs operated in California where children were present.   BHO explosions in Colorado, Oregon, Montana and Washington left children injured.

Furthermore, 14 children were treated for marijuana poisoning in Colorado last year, mainly from pot edibles. So far this year, there have been 14 children treated for marijuana poisonings in the state of Washington. The more pot promoters say that marijuana is harmless, the number of neglected and abused children will grow. Some will suffer and die — unnecessarily. Marijuana should raise red flags when judges decide custody and visitation.

Children who died in Fires

Fire fighters valiantly tried to save Landon and Liam Abbott, 3-year-old twins, in  Indiana, on April 5, 2014. The US is not effectively addressing drug-endangered children. Photo: WLFI

Two-year-old Levi Welton died in a fire while his parents used pot with friends in another room. He went into a closet to escape.  Levi’s 5-year-old brother survived the fire. One of the boys probably started the fire by playing with matches left by the parents. The parents, Julia and Christopher Welton (shown above), escaped.

Delawna Berran-Lett, mother of Dyheir and Kyheir Arthur who died.  Photo: WTAE. The fire occurred on Jan. 4, 2013 in North Braddock, Pa. See fire photos from AP.

Two sets of twins died in fires related to marijuana last year. The 3-year old Arthur twins were home alone cooking while their mother left to look for marijuana, an obvious sign of a very, very addicted mom. In the case of 3-year-old Abbott twins, their father admitted to using a torch to smoke marijuana the night before the fire. He also used Ecstasy and hydrocodone. The room with the torch and a propane canister may have exploded. The mother was separated from her husband who had changed over the previous year, become a big drug user.

Brandon Abbott's 3-year-olds died, and Indiana harsh sentencing puts him behind bars for 70 years.
Brandon Abbott’s 3-year-olds died, and he was sentenced to 70 years. Photo: Tippecanoe County Sheriff

Indiana’s harsh sentencing laws means Brandon Abbott is facing 70 years of jail We ask, why do very addicted parents have custody and visitation at all?  Why do courts allow it without taking the drug use into consideration? Do the judges think drug habits will magically disappear with the responsibility of parenting? If the law is so determined to suddenly make a parent responsible, why don’t they require drug rehabilitation and abstinence?

Niya Brean Sosa-Martinez
Niya Sosa-Martinez, mother of Andre Sosa-Martinez who let her son die in a fire in Keizer, Oregon last October 24, 2014. Photo: Marion County Sheriff’s Office


Niya Sosa-Martinez, Andre’s mother, was  home when the 4-year-old died, but too stoned to react. She had smoked from her bong at 11 a.m., fell asleep and left the pot paraphernalia in a dangerous position to catch fire.  When her son woke her, she saved herself but didn’t think quickly to save him. Niya is a victim of addiction, in a state with little drug education. She’s in jail 11 years, but shouldn’t the pot activists who shamelessly promote the drug share some blame?

Lileigh Kellenears’ mother, Kristen Braig, and her boyfriend left the 3-year-old alone for a short awhile, while going to a neighbor’s mobile home. Having smoked pot earlier that night, and drinking, they left burning candles in the home as the girl slept. Yet they were within yards of the house, and had been gone only about 15 minutes. Boyfriend Dustin Blanchard valiantly tried to save Lileigh. 

Kristen Braig & Dustin Blanchard
Kristen Braig and boyfriend Dustin Blanchard. Colorado’s legalization of marijuana, rather than “bad” people, should be blamed for Lileigh’s death. The fire occurred on Jan. 3, 2015  Blanchard valiantly tried to save the 3-year-old. Photo: Greeley Police
Greeley fire
The mobile home where Lileigh Kellenears died, early January 2015. Photo is from Fox31.

Braig and Blanchard came from Wyoming. They were visiting Colorado where pot was suddenly legal.  How were they supposed to know about “responsible use of marijuana” coming from another state?  (Luke Goodman was another out-of-state visitor who killed himself in March, after eating pot edibles without adequate warning). Their bad judgment came under the influence of the weed. Shouldn’t the state share responsibility for this death, legalizing a dangerous substance and inviting tourism based on it?

The marijuana of today is much stronger than it was 25 years ago.  State policies of marijuana tolerance, or tolerance of parenting with drug addiction (the Abbott twins in Indiana), share some of the blame.  It’s not clear that Pennsylvania could have done anything earlier to save the Arthur twins, but the political push for marijuana certainly may be a factor in encouraging the mom’s use of pot.  (Cosmopolitan recently published the story by a mom of young twins who uses pot for anxiety, proof of a dangerous legitimization of use by parents of young children.)

The tragic deaths of Tyler and William Jensen, the first children to die from child neglect after Colorado legalized marijuana, are in Part 3.  Sign up by email to get this update and other blog articles.

(Editor’s note: News of nine more deaths involving marijuana use more have surfaced since we wrote our articles: a baby shot in the head, a drowning death in Maine, a two-year-old in Indiana, a two-year old in Cincinnati who had been beaten most of her life, and an infant, Natalee Skinner-Hurst in Denver. The caseworker has been accused of false reports in the last case; the mother was a long-time marijuana user. Four children died in a fire in Missouri, parents cited for numerous pot violations.)

*Sue Webber-Brown, California Alliance for Drug-Endangered Children.

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19 thoughts on “Parents’ Pot Use Leads to Neglect, Death in Fires, Part 2”

  1. The details in the Kristen Braig/Dustin Blanchard case have been twisted to fit your purpose. If you did any research, you would have found that those two were also drinking and both tested positive for methamphetamines. If you know anything about meth and/or alcohol, you would know those two substances especially together are lethal. Combined with pot, yes, judgement is drastically impaired. This bogus article insinuates that pot alone was the issue in this case. Do some research and print the truth. Anyone with any education on drugs would know that meth ruins lives…..pot is the least of the evils in this case, and in the realm of drug related situations. I love how people jump on the pot bandwagon but dismiss meth. Pure idiocy at its finest.

    1. Please send us the article that gives evidence they used methamphetamine. If we ever had found that information we would be not be so likely to post the situation in this article. We never denied they were drinking. If it was drinking alone, there was less a chance they would have left the daughter in danger.

      1. WOW! I am Lileigh’s aunt (Fathers side..not boyfriend.. father) and the idea that this beautiful girl and her horrific passing would be used as nothing more than a political trumpet hurts. First of all, my brother, Joseph Kellenaers, the second half of “her parents” did not fail. Her Mother did, and to be honest we could care less what she was doing instead of being there with her child. The bottom line is she wasn’t there. While your cause is understood, the way you exploit families and twist it to make your point isn’t.

        1. Very sorry for your loss which is definitely personal and hurtful even many months later. It is a loss felt for years. We understand your sensitivity and that your brother did not fail. For years child abuse deaths in US were ~ 1500 but they have increased at least 1900 reported last year. We have found 93 deaths related to parent pot use since the votes to legalize 4-1/2 years ago. We did not highlight Lileigh’s unfortunate case as much as others. We are trying to warn parents not to use. We believe that you cannot promote “responsible use of marijuana,” and zero use when you have small children. We do think that many of these parents would not have allowed this to happen had they not smoked pot. It distorts time and makes people forgetful of what’s on task. Perhaps Kristen wouldn’t have left Lileigh had she not used pot.

          As for the fires there have been two more deaths of two-year-old twins. We note 3 sets of toddler twins died IN FIRES as a result of parents’ marijuana use. Parents of twins probably do have more stress than others and this is the wrong way to address the stress. We encourage family members to help out more in the case of twins. And we wish the press would stop the casual attitude as if it’s normal to deal with your stress this way. We feel there should be PSA for parents not to use pot if they have small children.

    2. The mother had NO alcohol in her system for one, two she had less than. 002% of anything else in her system. SMH know the actual truth before you spout it off

    3. So very sorry to report back to you but kids are not only dying because of their parents doing pot – but they are at risk of a long list of other harms.
      The factors most commonly associated with the occurrence of child abuse and neglect, and identified in families involved with child protection services, are domestic violence, parental substance abuse and paren¬tal mental health problems. In 2008, research compiled by the AIFS in Australia found that a substantial number of Australian children are living with adults routinely misusing alcohol and other drugs. The research showed that in cases of substantiated child abuse or neglect, 64% of parents experienced significant problems with substance and alcohol abuse. It is estimated, that 30% of abused or neglected children go on to maltreat children when they become adults.
      In the UK, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) issued a report in 2003 entitled Hidden Harm, which estimated that in excess 350,000 British children were being harmed because their parents use drugs.
      In the United States, NIDA estimates the majority of all child abuse and neglect cases substantiated by child protective services involve some degree of substance abuse by the child’s parents. Most states in America, along with the District of Columbia, Guam, and the U.S Virgin Islands have laws within their child protection statutes that address the issue of substance abuse by parents. Individual state statures address prenatal drug ex¬posure and the harm caused to children by exposure to illegal drug activity in their homes or environment. The information for each state is available through—the Child Welfare Information Gateway, Washington, DC, USA, and Department of Health and Human Services – Children’s Bureau. Here is an example:
      Alaska Stat. 11.51.110: “A person commits the crime of endangering the welfare of a child in the second degree if the person, while caring for a child under age 10: Causes or allows the child to enter or remain in a dwelling or vehicle in which a controlled substance is stored in violation of chapter 11.71: Is impaired by an intoxicant, whether or not prescribed for the person, and there is no third person who is at least age 12 and not impaired by an intoxicant present to care for the child.”

      If you want to keep your kids out of harms way don’t use marijuana and tell them to stay away as well. It is not safe for human consumption and particularly dangerous to the young.

  2. I , too, had an experience of fire and pot as the cause.
    Two people smoked pot in an apartment I rented to them.
    They did not extinguish the pot cigarette properly and cased $60,000 worth of damage.
    Pot makes the brain foggy and that fog led to a possible death of many people and the loss of my houses structure. Yes, I had insurance.

    1. Thank you, Kathleen. This item is important for those people who think that pot use is only about personal freedom. Pot does make people forgetful.

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