Crime - Sacto 911

Woodland baby who died in slough born with fever, meth in system, reports show

Samantha Green cries moments after a jury found her guilty in the death of newborn son, Justice Rees, in Yolo Superior Court on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, in Woodland, Calif.
Samantha Green cries moments after a jury found her guilty in the death of newborn son, Justice Rees, in Yolo Superior Court on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, in Woodland, Calif.

Baby Justice Rees had a fever of 106 degrees and methamphetamine in his system when he was born to a mother who tested positive for the drug during her pregnancy, according to the child’s juvenile case records.

Nearly three weeks later, Justice would be dead.

The files, obtained by The Sacramento Bee through a California Public Records Act request, show a child in trouble as soon as he entered the world. His parents, Samantha Green and Frank Rees of Woodland, continued to use drugs despite a safety plan crafted by Rees’ parents and child welfare workers to allow the newborn to stay with his parents.

Green, 25, was convicted in September of second-degree murder in Yolo Superior Court in the death of Justice, whose body was recovered from a Knights Landing-area slough in February 2015. Green will be sentenced to prison Nov. 1 in Yolo Superior Court before Judge David Rosenberg.

The nearly 2-year-old case and weekslong murder trial centered on Green’s drug-fueled odyssey with her child to Knights Landing and into the frigid Ridge Cut Slough. There, she wandered then swam the slough, baby in tow and high on meth, in an attempt to find Rees, who drove alone to Knights Landing for a suspected sexual liaison with a female friend.

Green and Justice spent the night in the slough in the shadow of Knights Landing homes and a mile from the car she parked at a nearby cul-de-sac. A distraught Green surfaced alone the next day, Feb. 24, 2015, flagging down a resident to say she had been kidnapped and that her baby was likely dead.

Prosecutors say Green acted out of meth-fueled jealousy of Rees’ affairs with other women when she took Justice from their Woodland home to the slough. Green’s attorneys said she acted in the grip of a methamphetamine-induced psychosis brought on after massive doses of the drug administered by Rees in the days before Justice’s death.

Rees has not been charged in connection with Justice’s death.

In their reports before Justice’s death, Yolo County child welfare investigators stated Green and Rees had no income and were financially supported by Rees’ parents in the short weeks of Justice’s life, and noted that at the hospital, doctors barred Green from breast-feeding her baby, concerned about her drug use.

Staffers said Green’s “behavior is such that she is acting intoxicated,” and said she sneaked way from the hospital several times before she was discharged.

Meantime, investigators said Rees was described as a “looser” (sic) by hospital staff, “asking for food vouchers for himself, taking advantage of resources, and not very involved with baby.”

Concerns persisted after the couple brought Justice home from the hospital. Child welfare investigators said Rees’ parents enabled Rees and Green by continuing to allow them to live in the home “despite his lack of efforts to find financial support for himself,” and the couple’s continued drug use.

But social workers also said they were satisfied with the safety plan Rees and Green had agreed to follow. It included random drug testing, Green’s intake into a drug treatment program and Rees’ promise not to sneak out at night.

By Feb. 23, 2015, members of Green’s family told social workers that they were worried about Justice’s care. They said Green and Rees were not following the safety plan and that Green had left the home, taking Justice with her.

A social worker called Green’s cellphone that day, according to the report. The mailbox was full.

Two days later on Green’s birthday, Feb. 25, 2015, child welfare workers in the report confirmed the worst. Justice was dead.

“Child found dead, due to exposure near the sloughs of Knights Landing,” the report read.

The investigators’ final conclusions came in a series of sentences the following day.

“Allegations of general neglect against parents substantiated due to mother’s drug use including meth during her pregnancy and minor testing positive at birth,” the report read. “Father knew or should have reasonably known of mother’s drug use and did nothing to protect his child.”

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith

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