PHILADELPHIA - A Philadelphia man charged with putting heroin and methadone in his infant son's bottle to quiet him, but instead killing him, was convicted Tuesday of third-degree murder.
Orlando Rosado, 46, did not testify at the one-day trial, but the defense said Rosado accidentally put the drugs in the baby's 3 a.m. bottle during a heroin relapse. His son, Christopher, died two days shy of his first birthday in May 2012.
Common Pleas Judge Barbara McDermott said she based her verdict in the nonjury trial partly on Rosado's conduct afterward, when he gave changing statements to police, including an attempt to blame the death on his 5-year-old daughter.
"I was appalled when I heard that," McDermott said.
Yet McDermott says she knows Rosado regrets his actions. He told police his son was "his heart and soul."
The case opened a window into the world of two addicts, mother and father, who sought treatment after their daughter was born addicted to heroin in 2006, and were seemingly doing well. It's at least the second case in Philadelphia in which a baby died after drinking a heroin-laced bottle.
Medical records show Christopher was healthy, if small for his age, and there was no evidence of prior abuse or neglect. Photographs show the house was neatly kept, and the boy's mother said Rosado handled the overnight feedings, and boiled water to make the formula. And a friend came every day at 7 a.m. to take him to a methadone clinic for treatment.
"He was pretty good with the baby," said the friend, Giovanni Nieves.
But Nieves knew that Rosado was still using, buying both heroin and methadone on the street. He was also being treated for bipolar disorder.
When Nieves arrived the morning of May 11, 2012, a hysterical Rosado ran outside carrying his limp, discolored boy.
The baby had vomited into his bassinet, apparently as the drugs slowed and then stopped his breathing.
Rosado initially told police that he had no idea what happened, and admitted only in a third interview, after toxicology tests came back, that he had done eight bags of heroin after the boy's mother went to bed.
The mother, 29-year-old Crystal Miller, was also in a daily methadone program. She thought Rosado had been clean since their daughter's birth, she testified.
"Can you believe he tried to blame it on (her)?" Miller, crying, asked a companion after Tuesday's verdict.
Defense lawyer Bruce Wolf argued that Rosado may have been reckless, but did not act with malice, as is required for the third-degree verdict. But McDermott questioned the decision to take heroin while caring for the infant.
The older child, now 6, lives with Rosado's mother and sister, who were in the courtroom to support him but declined to comment afterward.
McDermott acquitted Rosado of drug delivery causing death, finding there was no evidence he administered the drugs intentionally, despite the prosecutor's theory.
"In his warped mind, he thought this would be OK ... to make the baby sleep," Assistant District Attorney Lorraine Donnelly had argued.