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Parents Admit to Baby Son’s Drug Death in Seaside Heights

The couple whose 11-month-old son died in Seaside Heights in 2008 admit that they administered the heroin that took his life.

Denise Manco, 35, and Rondell Moore, 37, pleaded guilty to manslaughter Monday, according to Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford, telling a judge that they rubbed the drug on the baby’s gums to soothe teething pain.

Sentencing is scheduled for February 22. They’ll each be subject to sentences of up to 10 years in New Jersey State Prison and, under the state’s No Early Release Act, be required to serve at least 85 percent of the term before parole eligibility. Under the plea bargain, prosecutors are dropping charges of child endangerment and drug possession.

Ford added that Moore also admitted guilt to an unrelated drug possession count tied to an arrest last September.

Investigators were brought in after Seaside Heights police and emergency medical technicians responded to a call about an unresponsive child on September 12, 2008. “Baby JM” was pronounced dead a short while later at Community Medical Center in Toms River.

According to authorities, the autopsy was inconclusive but toxicology tests revealed heroin in the baby’s system. The cause of death ws lsited as acute heroin intoxication. Detectives were not able to get a clear answer about how the drug wound up inside the infant.

“In October 2012,” says Ford in a statement, “we developed new and credible information which indicated that the ingestion of the heroin by the child was not accidental but rather occurred as a result of an intentional act or acts by the parents.”

Manco and Moore were indicted on September 26, 2012, four years after the baby’s death. Ford says that their statements given Monday are consistent with the medical examiner’s findings.

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