Man whose OxyContin pill killed baby gets 3 years probation

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A man found responsible for the accidental ingestion of OxyContin by an 18-month-old girl who later died from the dose was sentenced to probation Tuesday.

Sean Czambel, 27, will spend three years on probation with six months of that on home confinement. He was found guilty by a jury in May of one count of recklessly endangering a child. The panel deadlocked on a count of involuntary manslaughter.

At Tuesday's hearing, Assistant District Attorney Lisa Pellegrini said her office would not try Mr. Czambel on that count again.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman told Mr. Czambel he vividly remembered the case.

"When the child took the pill, you were smoking up a joint," he said.

According to testimony at trial, Rachel Bellaire took her daughter, Cailin Stiffler, to visit Mr. Czambel's home on Jan. 24, 2008. The two had been planning to move in together.

Mr. Czambel told police he had left half a tablet of OxyContin, wrapped in cellophane, in the pocket of his pajama bottoms that he had thrown on his bed.

That afternoon, while Cailin took a nap in that bed, he and Ms. Bellaire watched television and smoked marijuana.

When Cailin woke up a short time later, she was fussy and groggy. Ms. Bellaire took the girl home, believing she was coming down with a cold. But police believe that was the child's respiratory system shutting down.

When Ms. Bellaire realized the severity of the situation, she called an ambulance. Cailin died two days later.

Prosecutors charged both Mr. Czambel and Ms. Bellaire. She was found not guilty of endangering the welfare of a child by Judge Cashman during a concurrent nonjury trial.

Defense attorney Paul Gettleman told the judge at sentencing his client may be negligent, but he's not a criminal.

"He's going to have to live with this the rest of his life -- knowing he caused the death of a child he loved very much."

Ms. Pellegrini agreed with that characterization.

"It is clear both of these individuals loved that child very much," she said.

The prosecutor told Judge Cashman that Mr. Czambel has been sober for two years.

In sentencing the defendant, who did not address the court, the judge included random drug screenings in his punishment.

"Hopefully, Mr. Gettleman is correct -- you'll remember what you did caused the death of an innocent and incapable individual. She depended on adults to take care of her."

neigh_washington

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620.


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