SALMON — A mother who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the drug-related death of her infant daughter will spend at least eight years in prison.
Heather Elam, 26, was originally charged with first-degree murder and faced life in prison for the death of her then 6-month-old child, Serenity Gail Elmore. State police determined Serenity died of a methamphetamine overdose.
In late 2016, Lemhi County Prosecutor Bruce Withers along with Elam and her attorney, James Archibald, agreed to enter into mediation.
Mediation in criminal matters is a voluntary process, where a neutral third party helps to resolve the matter without a trial. During mediation, the state and defense agreed on a recommended charge and sentence.
As part of a plea agreement, the murder charge was amended to one count of voluntary manslaughter.
On Dec. 22, District Judge Alan Stephens sentenced Elam to a 12-year prison term consisting of eight years determinate and four years indeterminate.
Court records show investigators discovered methamphetamine in a bottle of children’s Dimetapp — a cold and allergy medication — and within a partially full baby bottle.
Autopsy reports showed the presence of methamphetamine in the child’s stomach, blood and urine. Investigators said the presence of meth in the stomach is consistent with oral ingestion.
Forensic toxicologists determined a lethal dose of meth was likely administered three to four hours before the child’s death.
A witness also told police Elam had been in possession of meth the night before the child died.
When Serenity was brought to the hospital, she was in full cardiac arrest. Hans Rudd, the attending physician, checked for a heartbeat and determined there was none. He told police “it was apparent that (the child) has not been breathing or conscious for a long time.”
Elam will face a parole board to determine her release in March 2024.
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com
Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com Columnist
Stephan Rockefeller, EastIdahoNews.com