St. Paul mother pleads guilty in girl’s fentanyl overdose death

A St. Paul woman charged with manslaughter in the March fentanyl overdose death of her 7-year-old daughter has struck a plea deal with prosecutors that calls for a three-year prison sentence, court records show.

Shauntaija Jannell Travis, 28, pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree manslaughter by culpable negligence in the March 31 death of Za’Maiya Travis, who ingested the potent synthetic opioid drug at their Frogtown home.

The plea deal calls for the dismissal of an additional second-degree manslaughter charge, and the downward durational departure to three years.

Judge Jacob Kraus must decide whether to accept the agreement at a sentencing hearing set for March 22.

The June criminal complaint details Shauntajia Travis’ struggles with drug use, as well as efforts by Travis’ grandmother to get Za’Maiya help through Ramsey County Child Protective Services and her school, Benjamin E. Mays.

A man who spoke on behalf of Za’Maiya’s father’s side of the family told the court at Friday’s hearing that the proposed prison term is too low, according to court documents. Meanwhile, prosecutor Kathryn Long said Shauntaija Travis’ family, including her great-grandparents, do not want her to go to prison.

Didn’t wake up for school

Police officers and medics were sent to the home in the 800 block of Sherburne Avenue around 6:40 a.m. Travis said she tried waking up Za’Maiya for school just after 6 a.m., but found her dead. She called 911.

Investigators found six straws with white powder in the bedroom. In Travis’ purse, which was on the bedroom floor, officers found a baggie of suspected “crumbs” of narcotics, a blue M30 pill, a straw and folded cash with white powder residue. Testing by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension showed the straws contained cocaine. The M30 pill contained fentanyl.

A preliminary test showed that Za’Maiya had fentanyl in her system at the time of her death. The Ramsey County medical examiner’s office later confirmed she died of fentanyl toxicity.

Travis told police she abuses Percocet. When asked what the chance was that Za’Maiya got into her drugs, she replied, “Seventy-five,” the complaint says. She denied consuming the drugs around her daughter, and said her boyfriend does not do drugs.

Child Protective Services

Travis’ grandmother told police the girl wanted to live with her because of her living situation. She said the girl’s clothing was in poor condition and she said that Travis took “medicine” by mouth, the complaint says.

She said she wanted to take immediate custody of the girl, but Travis agreed to give her grandmother temporary custody of her daughter for a year so she could get help for her drug addiction. Travis set April 5 as the day.

Travis’ grandmother told police she explained the girl’s home situation to school officials, who recommended that she contact child protection. She made an initial report with Child Protective Services on March 9, and Travis and Za’Maiya met with a child protection worker four days later.

Drug abuse was noted in child protection paperwork among other neglect issues.

“(Za’Maiya) told the child protection worker that her mother crushed up blue stuff into a powder before sniffing it,” the complaint says.

Za’Maiya wasn’t removed from the home because other caregivers who didn’t use drugs were present in the home, and Travis agreed to get a chemical health assessment, the complaint says.

“Later in the month, Travis asked for two weeks to transfer custody of (Za’Maiya), but child protection convinced Travis that a week was more appropriate,” the complaint says.

Za’Maiya died at home before the transfer took place.

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