03/12/2012 03:24 EDT | Updated 05/12/2012 05:12 EDT

Toddler's Methadone Death Lands Dad In Prison


A New Brunswick man has been sentenced to two years in prison in connection with the death of his 23-month-old-daughter who drank his prescription methadone two years ago.

Anthony Michael Linfield, 27, of Havelock had previously pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death. He apologized to the Moncton provincial court through tears, saying it was the biggest mistake he ever made and that he'll have to live with it every day of his life.

He's ready to face his punishment, he said, as his supporters cried.

Judge Irwin Lampert called the case tragic.

Linfield had also been charged with manslaughter and failing to provide the necessities of life, but those charges were dropped when he pleaded guilty in January.

Paramedics and the Caledonia RCMP were called to the Linfield family home in Havelock on Jan. 8, 2010, and discovered that Dakota had ingested methadone in the previous 24 hours. The synthetic opiate is used to treat pain, as well as addictions to opiates such as heroin, Dilaudid and OxyContin.

The toddler was taken to the Moncton Hospital and then airlifted to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, where she died five days later on Jan. 13.

Methadone cup left on counter

On Monday, the details about what happened the day Dakota drank the methadone were relayed for the first time.

The court heard that Linfield took his methadone about noon on Jan. 7 and left the cup on the kitchen counter or table. He was then distracted by a phone call from a friend, said Crown prosecutor Mario Cormier.

Linfield took Dakota and her brother Dawson out to help a friend with a car. Then, around supper time, the children went home with their mother, who had just gotten off of work.

Dakota asked her mother for some juice. Her mother poured her some and went back to doing laundry.

Her mother heard a cup fall and Dawson said, "Mommy, Dakota doesn't like her juice."

Later that evening, Dakota was acting "whiney and different," the court heard. Her parents put her to bed and checked on her several times during the night. The next morning, when Linfield went to check on her, she was unresponsive. Linfield called a neighbour, who called 911.

Dawson then told his father that Dakota had taken a drink out of the methadone cup the day before.

Linfield was charged in May and originally elected to be tried by judge and jury.

The Crown and defence had recommended a two-year prison term.

Lessons to be learned

"This is a regular guy, like a lot of other regular guys, who had a drug problem and was able to get into methadone treatment and he left something where his child could get a hold of it and his child got a hold of it and consumed it and it led to her death and he just, he never would have thought that was possible and now he has to deal with the consequences of it," defence lawyer Alison Menard told reporters outside the courtroom.

She said she hopes some good can come from the case.

"For people who are on the methadone program, how very very important it is to follow the directives that are given about how to, you know, how to care for it when it's in their home," she said.

Most clients in New Brunswick methadone programs have to go to a drugstore daily to drink the liquid in the presence of a pharmacist. But some clients who are considered stable are allowed to take multiple doses home with them.

The so-called carries program is intended to make it easier for people on methadone to have a normal life, since treatment can take years. It allows them, for example, to work full time and go away on vacation.

Under provincial policies and procedures, people who take methadone are supposed to show their physicians the locked box they plan to keep their doses in before being granted carry privileges.