Officer O.M. Szentpaly was stopped at a local gas station when, according to WBTV, a 1996 Honda Civic caught her eye.
Parked facing the car wash, the occupants of the vehicle appeared to be “out of it.” The Salisbury, North Carolina, Police Captain Melonie Thompson explains:
“She noticed that the driver’s head she could not see and the passenger was still looking down, so she decided to investigate further.”
What Officer Szentpaly witnessed when she approached the car was a harrowing sight. The male occupant, later identified as David Hastings, pictured below, was passed out with a syringe in his hand and a needle in his arm. The female occupant, Jessie Hastings, also pictured below, was unresponsive as well.
Maybe most disturbing, however, was the scene in the back of the car. A toddler was ferociously kicking the back of a seat, trying unsuccessfully to wake his parents. The police report describes the unfortunate state in which the child was found:
“The child was sweating profusely because it was so hot outside… The windows were down but the child was crying.”
The child was placed in an air-conditioned vehicle and Child Services was contacted. A search of the Hastings’s car uncovered drug paraphernalia and a “white residue” which tested positive for cocaine.
Sadly, this story is not unique. All across the U.S., heroin addiction is on the rise:
— Vinesh Singh Rathore (@vsingh2014) July 5, 2016
And oftentimes—like in the case of this toddler—the addiction takes precedence over the user’s child.
Back in January, staffers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital found a mother unconscious on the floor of her daughter’s hospital room with a needle in her arm. Her husband was found in a similar state on the floor of a bathroom nearby.
In May, an Arkansas postal worker was working her daily route when she came across two children who looked like they hadn’t been bathed in days. She found their mother in a nearby garage, unconscious and surrounded by two pipes, a bag of marijuana, and eight bottles of open nail polish.
Just yesterday, a mother who was found guilty of exchanging her 11-year-old daughter providing sexual favors for heroin was sentenced to fifty-one years in prison.
Experiencing traumas like these as a child can have debilitating effects. Beth McKeithan of Prevent Child Abuse Rowan explains:
“Any child that experiences trauma under the age of 12, it adds a great deal of traumatic experience to their situation, it actually prevents their brain from growing properly, it changes their DNA, their actual physical DNA.”
That is why, McKeithan says, she partners with other organizations to prevent similar situations from happening.
Luckily, the child in this case is said to be doing well, physically at least. The toddler has been placed in the care of a family member while David and Jessie Hastings remain in jail on drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, and child abuse charges.