A premature baby born Friday night in a motel bathtub after his mother said she went on a crack cocaine binge remains in critical condition on a ventilator at UF Heatlh Shands Hospital in Gainesville.
The Florida Department of Children and Families has taken custody of the baby and his 11-month-old brother, DCF spokeswoman Kristi Gray said. The baby’s brother has been placed in foster care.
Their 37-year-old mother, Chrystal A. Hassell, is on suicide watch at the Marion County Jail, meaning she is under constant supervision. She faces a charge of child neglect. She will be evaluated by medical professionals and will get whatever assistance she needs, Gray said, and the agency will work with her.
On Saturday, hours after her arrest, Hassell said she has been using drugs since she was a teenager, including while pregnant. She said she has a 16-year-old daughter who was born addicted to drugs. She said she did not know she was pregnant with her third child until early March when she felt movement in her stomach. She went to Munroe Regional Medical Center for a checkup and was told she was approximately six to seven months pregnant.
Hassell said she decided not to smoke crack but the cravings were too great. The day before her baby was born, she went on a binge. She said she had the child in a bathtub at Vacation Host Inn on South Pine Avenue and cut the umbilical cord with her teeth. She said the baby began turning blue so she called 911.
Vincent Terry, 43, the father of the baby and his brother, is at the Marion County Jail on a warrant out of El Pasco County, Colo., for domestic violence, attempted murder and a violation of probation on possession of a Schedule II controlled substance.
Terry said Tuesday during an interview at the jail that he did not know his girlfriend was abusing drugs for 24 hours before their baby was born. He said she told him she was tired and wanted to lie down.
“I knew she had a history of doing drugs, but not that she was doing drugs. She just found out she was pregnant,” he said.
Terry said he and Hassell attended a court hearing Tuesday to determine the status of their two children. He said his family provided the names of immediate family members whom the children can stay with and that DCF officials plan to do background checks to see if they qualify to take care of them.
Though no case plan has been arranged, Vincent said they should be able to have visitation with the children but that will depend on the outcome of their cases as well what kinds of programs they have to complete.
Terry said they have settled on a name for the baby, which he would not reveal, and that someone from the hospital is supposed to call and get the name so they can sign the birth certificate.
As for the charges he faces, Terry said he was not aware of the attempted murder and domestic violence charges and he thought his probation had ended on the drug possession charge. He said he has signed extradition papers and will go to Colorado to face the charges.
Terry said he and his girlfriend have several problems facing them, such as finding a place to live, but that he is looking forward to a life with Hassell and believes they can overcome any obstacle.
“Of course we’re going to stay together. My kids are here. She’s not a bad person. She just got a problem and, together, we’ll fight it,” he said.