July 12, 2005
Two women have been arrested on suspicion of providing alcohol to five children ranging in age from 9 to 16 years old. According to Colorado Springs police, the children, ages 9, 11, 14, 15 and 16, were drinking, vomiting and may have been smoking marijuana at a house on Northwind Drive.
All had blood-alcohol contents above the .08 legal limit to drive in Colorado. The 9-year-old’s BAC was .166, more than twice the limit, police said. Jerianne Garcia, 35, mother of four of the children, and Melissa Collins, 32, face five counts each of child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Both are free on $1,000 bail. Police received an anonymous tip about 11:45 p.m. Saturday and went to the women’s house. They found the children drinking alcohol provided by the two women, said Sgt. Howard Black. He said the 16-year-old was a boyfriend of one of the other children. The caller told police the children were smoking marijuana, but police said they were unable to corroborate that, Black said. The children were checked at Memorial Hospital and released. Black said Garcia’s four children were placed in temporary custody with another family member. The El Paso County Department of Human Services is investigating. Lloyd Malone, child welfare administrator, said he could not comment on the case. A police report indicates the 16-year-old had been through drug rehabilitation and the 9-year-old “could quote the percentage of alcohol in each drink and had a cure for hangovers.” “For children to be at that level of intoxication at that age is not something I’ve experienced in my 20-plus years as a police officer,” Black said. Jim Saunders, a drug and alcohol counselor with the El Paso County Health Department, said he is seeing more teenagers in counseling who began abusing alcohol and drugs while very young. “When I heard about that story this morning, it was not a surprise to me, and that’s sad,” Saunders said. “A good percentage of our adolescent clients began their drug and alcohol experimentation at ages 10 or 11.” While many children drink without their parents’ knowledge, some teenagers report their parents encouraged it, he said. “I’ve had a number of adolescents who said their parents use (drugs), their parents or relatives have used with them,” Saunders said. CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-1605 or firstname.lastname@example.org