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Parents arrested after morphine found in dead toddler's system

Bradford County couple charged with aggravated child neglect

BRADFORD COUNTY, Fla. – The parents of a 22-month-old were arrested Thursday night, charged with aggravated child neglect after toxicology results showed morphine in the boy's system, according to the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office.

A deputy arrested the parents of Bradley Howard after confronting them with preliminary toxicology results showing morphine in his body.

The child died in his sleep on April 2. 

The parents were re-interviewed on Thursday, at which time they admitted to having two illegally obtained morphine pills within reach of the toddler while driving in their vehicle. When they went to retrieve the pills for their own consumption, they realized one was missing, according to the Sheriff's Office. They discussed the possibility of the child having accidentally ingesting the pill, but took no further action, deputies said. 

"I don't know of anybody, anybody in this world when a child dies needlessly that would feel anything but anger and sadness and complete disbelief that this can happen," Capt. Brad Smith said. 

According to the Sheriff's Office, the parents said they decided to split the remaining pill between them while they smoked marijuana and drank some alcohol prior to going to bed that night.

"The parents were putting on this facade, trying to act like nothing actually happened and that they had no responsibility whatsoever in the child's death," Smith said. 

Thomas Howard, 34, and Christian Morgan, 26, were arrested,the Florida Department of Children and Families took custody of their other two children. Howard was ordered held on $350,000 bond, while Morgan was held on $250,000 bond.

"We're going to continue to pursue cases like this and charge any parents that are neglectful to their children," Smith said. 

Upon completion of the autopsy and toxicology testing, which could be a couple of weeks, the State Attorney’s Office may adjust the charges.