MANCHESTER — The West Side parents whose 20-month-old son died of a cocaine overdose after getting into their drug stash pleaded guilty Friday to felony crimes associated with drug dealing and his death.
The father, Joshua Garvey, 32, pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and maintaining a drug house. He will spend the next 44 months in state prison and then enter a drug treatment center. If he completes the minimum two-year program, he will be free. If not, he would be returned to prison at least for the rest of a 10-year minimum sentence.
The mother, Christen Gelinas, 34, pleaded guilty to three drug trafficking charges and the drug house charge. She will serve a minimum of seven years in prison before being eligible for parole.
Both were arrested following the May 25, 2018, death of their son, Tatum Garvey, and the discovery of a safe stocked with fentanyl, cocaine and crack cocaine and $12,000 in cash in their home at 473 Hevey St.
They have been jailed ever since and appeared one after the other in front of a Hillsborough County Superior Court judge Friday afternoon. Both had family members who attended the hearing.
While expressing words of sympathy toward Gelinas, Judge David Anderson said the Garvey sentence was lenient and he shook his head when the prosecutor explained additional advantages for Garvey.
Garvey will be eligible for further sentence reductions if he completes education and treatment programs in prison, and a suspended sentence began as of Friday, not the end of his active sentence, as is usually the case.
Anderson said he would reluctantly accept the terms of the plea deal.
“This was an extremely difficult case for me,” the prosecutor, Assistant County Attorney Donald Topham, told Anderson. “You can’t fix this case. This is something you can’t make right. We can’t correct it.”
Had he brought Garvey to trial, Topham said, Garvey would have testified he was asleep when his son died, which would have made it difficult to prove his culpability.
The judge noted that drugs were accessible in the apartment. But Topham said that Garvey would have claimed that the boy had taken the cocaine when under the care of his mother.
It would be difficult to prove at trial that Gelinas was responsible for the child’s death because he was alive when she gave him to Garvey, Topham said.
“Because there were two people in the apartment, it would be difficult for me to prove they were equally culpable for the drugs,” Topham said.
Gelinas will also be eligible for earned reductions if she participates in education and treatment programs.
Garvey choked up and did not address Anderson. Gelinas said she will live with what happened for the rest of her life. “No words can express how sorry I am,” she said.
“This case,” Anderson said, “highlights in a most tragic way the consequences of the drug epidemic this community has suffered through,” Anderson said.
On Friday night, Ryan Grant, Assistant Chief of the Manchester Police Department tweeted the following: “ Absolutely disgusting plea. Exemplifies the incompetence at the Hillsborough County Attorneys Office!”