A Winston-Salem man accidentally added tequila to his granddaughter’s baby formula and exposed her to crack cocaine, a Forsyth County prosecutor said.
It was enough tequila that the 3-month-old infant had an alcohol concentration of 0.17%, a little more than twice the legal limit for drivers, which is 0.08%.
Ronnie Keith Johnson, 61, of the 5200 block of Indiana Avenue, pleaded guilty Thursday in Forsyth Superior Court to one count of felony negligent child abuse, inflicting serious physical injury.
Judge David Hall of Forsyth Superior Court gave Johnson a suspended sentence with a minimum of nine months and a maximum of 20 months and placed him on supervised probation for three years. Hall ordered that one of the conditions is that he cannot be alone with a child without supervision.
Assistant District Attorney Kia Chavious said doctors at Brenner Children’s Hospital contacted Winston-Salem police on Jan. 4, 2020. Johnson, who is the child’s grandfather, and his wife brought the child to the hospital’s emergency room, saying that the girl had been acting abnormally. The girl’s eyes were rolling into the back of her head and she was not eating properly, Chavious said.
Medical personnel did blood work and completed a urine scan and found that the girl had a significant amount of alcohol in her system. They also found cocaine in her system.
Winston-Salem police investigated and eventually learned that Johnson had been using crack cocaine. Johnson and his wife, the grandmother, had been caring for the child while the parents were away. The mother had to work and the father had gone out of town.
Johnson had been using cocaine that he had kept in his clothes, and it is believed that the child became exposed to the cocaine while she slept on top of his clothes, Chavious said. She said family members did not know Johnson was using cocaine.
Johnson told Winston-Salem police that he had a small gathering, and one of the people who attended brought a water bottle containing tequila, Chavious said.
On Jan. 3, 2020, Johnson was making baby formula using two half-empty water bottles. Johnson used the water bottle that had tequila, Chavious said.
Doctors consulted with the hospital’s child abuse team, which determined that the girl had an altered mental state, difficulty breathing and dehydration and had hypoglycemia. The team concluded that exposing the girl to alcohol and cocaine was consistent with medical neglect and that the girl consuming such high levels of those two things could have led to her death, Chavious said.
The girl, who is nearly 2 years old, is now doing fine, she said.
Assistant Public Defender Beth Toomes said this was not an intentional offense.
“As soon as they realized the child was lethargic, they took her to the hospital,” Toomes said.
Doctors performed an additional examination and found no further indication of maltreatment, Toomes said.
There’s no suggestion that Johnson would ever do this again, she said.