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Couple seeks help after taking in 3 children at center of drug case

(KSL TV)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Last week, an Elk Ridge couple were arrested after detectives accused them of giving their newborn daughter crushed pain medication in the hospital to allegedly hide the baby's drug addiction from medical staff.

Colby Glen Wilde, 29, and Lacey Dawn Christenson, 26, were arrested last month after police say Wilde was caught shoplifting at a Walmart and Christenson was booked on an outstanding warrant.

With their parents behind bars, the couple's three children — ages 4, 2, and 3 months old — were bound for foster care, with no guarantee of staying together. Christenson's 9-year-old son was heading to his biological father's home in Eagle Mountain.

But on the car ride to pick up the boy from the Utah Division of Child and Family Services, Stetson Steele and his wife, Sami, decided to step in and help the other three children.

"We went from no kids full-time to four kids full-time," Sami Steele said Monday. "It’s been great, but it’s definitely been a challenge."

The couple has been caring for their son and the three kids since late June when Wilde and Christenson were first arrested.

The case worker was astonished when the Steeles said they wanted to take in all three kids.

"We couldn’t separate them," Sami Steele said, adding that the 9-year-old played a big role in taking care his younger siblings and didn't want to leave them behind.

The two young boys and the infant girl all tested positive for methamphetamine following the arrests of Wilde and Christenson in June, said Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon. The infant also allegedly tested positive for heroin and morphine. The 9-year-old did not test positive for drugs.

"It's a disturbing case, to say the least. You have a situation where four young children, three of them under age 5, who should be growing up in a nurturing, loving, caring, environment and protected from harm, are being harmed by those who should be providing that environment," Cannon said last week. "These parents needed help, there's no doubt about that."

The three younger children, including the infant, still struggle with drug withdrawal symptoms, including rashes, irritability and not eating enough or eating too much, according to the Steeles. The kids also show signs of developmental delay.

"Terrible, tragic things could have happened to these kids," Sami Steele said. "These kids are affected for life because of drugs."

The baby girl had signs of dehydration when the Steeles brought her home, and Sami Steele said she had to watch for shaken baby syndrome from when police say Wilde dropped the baby while trying to escape Walmart after shoplifting. The infant had bruising on the back of her head from the incident.

But the infant has gained 4 ½ pounds since the Steeles took her in. The other kids are comfortable and doing well in their new home.

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The 9-year-old said the children would often wake up alone at night and Wilde and Christenson would be gone.

"It was very scary to us to imagine our 9-year-old in that type of situation, let alone his siblings," Stetson Steele said. "It’s just unimaginable."

The Steeles said they're trying to support their new family one day at a time. Both adults work full-time jobs while caring for the children. They're also expecting a baby of their own in September.

"Paying for day care is more than our house payment. It’s just not feasible," Sami Steele said.

The couple recently set up a GoFundMe account to fundraise for donations* and daily day care needs, like diapers and baby needs for the children they acquired overnight. As of midday Tuesday, nearly $4,600 had been raised.

"They're just kids, you know," Sami Steele said. "They need to be kids and this is stuff that’s going to affect them long term."

Investigators served a search warrant and found drugs and paraphernalia items throughout the home of Wilde and Christensen, Cannon said. Drugs were found on the counter near sippy cups and around a baby bassinet, according to court documents.

Detectives also learned that Christenson had been heavily using heroin and prescription pain medication during her pregnancy, according to Cannon.

Her child was born April 9 addicted to drugs, Cannon said. While still in the hospital, Christenson and Wilde crushed up Suboxone — a prescription pain medication used for pain management and addiction treatment — and rubbed it on the newborn's gums in an effort to hid the signs of a drug addiction from hospital staff, according to the sergeant.

"It's never a good scenario," said Dr. Stephen Minton at the Utah Valley Hospital. "You don't know how to administer it. You don't know what the dose is. You're putting your baby at risk to die."

Minton said babies born with drug addictions often sneeze, have diarrhea and are extremely irritable. Nurses often hold the babies nearly 24 hours a day to calm them down.

Wilde pleaded guilty last week to charges of child endangerment, a third-degree felony, and drug possession, a class B misdemeanor. He will be sentenced Aug. 29. He is also still facing charges of drug possession and DUI from the June 26 incident at Walmart, according to court records.

Christenson was charged July 7 in 4th District Court with child endangerment, a third-degree felony, plus drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia, class B misdemeanors. Her initial court appearance is set for Aug. 22.

"It’s been difficult to hear everything that they’ve been through, just being innocent kids," Sami Steele said. "And it’s not fair.”

*Disclaimer: KSL.com has not verified the accuracy of the information provided with respect to the account nor does KSL.com assure that the monies deposited will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit or donation you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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Utah
Ashley Stilson and Ladd Egan

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