A 25-year-old woman in central California has been arrested and charged with murder after she delivered a stillborn baby that authorities said had toxic levels of methamphetamine in its system.
The Hanford Police Department said in a news release that Chelsea Cheyenne Becker delivered a stillborn child September 10 that medical professionals believed may have been exposed to drugs while she was pregnant. The death was ruled a homicide after an autopsy by the Kings County Coroner’s Office found methamphetamine in the baby’s system, police said.
Police put out a warrant for Becker, and she was arrested Tuesday night on a felony charge of first-degree murder and booked into the Kings County Jail in Hanford early Wednesday, records show. Her bail has been set at $5 million.
Becker pleaded not guilty at her arraignment on Wednesday morning, and a phone call to her lawyer, Robert Stover, was not returned. Court records indicate her next hearing is November 19.
Detective Sgt. Justin Vallin of the Hanford Police Department said in an interview with CNN affiliate KGPE that three of Becker’s previous children were born with meth in their systems. Police said they learned through an investigation that she had lost custody of multiple children because of substance abuse problems.
Julie Lance, Becker’s aunt, had already adopted Becker’s 3-year-old son and has custody of her 1-year-old. Becker’s oldest child, a 4-year-old, was also adopted, according to KGPE.
CNN has reached out to both Vallin and Lance for comment but has not yet received a response.
Police said Becker admitted to using meth during her most recent pregnancy as late as three days before giving birth.
“The levels of methamphetamine in this baby’s system were such high levels, even for an adult, so we believe that she was using almost the entire time that she was pregnant,” Vallin told KGPE.
Becker’s cousin, Terra Ordonez, said she is optimistic her cousin will recover.
“I’m excited for her to straighten up and get clean because I know she’s smart enough to get out of it,” Ordonez told the affiliate. “Hopefully, it’s an eye-opener for a lot of women who are struggling. If you’re pregnant, scream for help.”