BRENTWOOD — A 30-year-old mother in court on Monday, May 2, wiped away tears with cuffed hands while admitting to her role in the overdose death of her 22-month-old daughter.
Shawna Marie Cote will now spend at least the next five years in state prison.
Londonderry police arrested Cote after her youngest daughter was found unresponsive in a pickup truck at RMZ Truck Stop on the morning of Nov. 16, 2020. She died shortly after at Parkland Medical Center.
Cote had left the scene with her older daughter, who was 5, to throw away a child-sized vest covered with powdered drugs.
A medical examiner determined that the toddler’s death was caused by acute fentanyl intoxication.
The girl’s father, Mark Geremia, and his friend Dana Dolan are facing similar charges for their roles.
According to an affidavit, Dolan told police how he, Geremia and Cote started using drugs soon after trading an ATV in Lawrence.
On their way back to the Lakes Region, Geremia pulled over at the Londonderry truck stop after having a hard time driving. The three adults snorted their second line of heroin there, the affidavit states.
Geremia told authorities that he woke up to his daughter unresponsive with her face down on the middle seat and her legs hanging toward the floor.
Cote was the first to be sentenced when Judge David Ruoff accepted a plea deal remanding her to police custody for eight years.
However, he explained that 14 months of pretrial credit and the chance to shave 18 more months off the sentence with rehabilitative efforts will shorten her stay.
Family members who provided victim impact statements were clear in wanting Cote to serve the maximum amount of time allowed by law — 20 years. Some doubted that drug treatment would have any lasting impact.
In a statement read aloud by prosecutor Kristin Vartanian, Cote’s parents remained the most hopeful, stating, “If given the chance, Shawna can and will do better.”
A review of court records shows that opportunities have come before.
Vartanian highlighted a lengthy criminal history, including a DUI arrest in which Cote’s children were present.
Pleading guilty in this case to negligent homicide, falsifying physical evidence and endangering a child also comes with a stipulation that Cote cannot contact her children without approval from their legal guardians.
Besides the older girl present for her sister’s fatal overdose, Cote and Geremia also have a younger son together. It was mentioned in court that he was born addicted to heroin.
Family members spoke of drug use during all three of Cote’s pregnancies.
The children’s aunt, Mechelle Rodriguez of Abilene, Texas, described planning a funeral for her 22-month-old niece and picking out a pink, porcelain heart-shaped urn.
The final word came from Ruoff, who said, “It’s hard not to react to these types of cases without being angry, it really is.”
“For God’s sake, you’ve got to watch out for your kids,” he said. “They come first.”
Cote will have to serve an additional 3½ to seven years in prison if she is in legal trouble at any time during the decade after her release.