PITTSFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Two foster parents from Adams are now facing manslaughter charges after prosecutors said they failed to seek medical care for an infant in their custody. That child, officials said, died from an illness that is treatable with regular antibiotics.
However, the couple’s attorney claims another agency is to blame.
Cassandra Barlow-Tucker and Matthew Tucker pleaded not guilty to child endangerment and involuntary manslaughter charges related to the death of a ten month old infant, but Matthew’s defense attorney said the couple was blindsided by the charges and had spent the last year mourning the baby’s death.
“No child should die because a caregiver failed to provide basic medical care,” said Berkshire County District Attorney Andrea Harrington.
Harrington said baby Kristoff Zenepoulos was placed in the care of foster parents Cassandra Barlow-Tucker and Matthew Tucker in December 2019, but by February 18, 2020 - roughly two months later - he was found dead.
Harrington said investigators found complications from Strep A and pneumonia had claimed Kristoff’s life.
“Antibiotics routinely are used to treat these underlying illnesses and that the Tuckers’ failure to obtain medical care caused Kristoff to develop widespread infection,” Harrington explained.
Harrington said the Tuckers were licensed foster parents, but now with facing involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges, those privileges have been revoked.
“They’ve been shell-shocked by this,” said Attorney Jill Sheldon, who is representing Matthew Tucker.
However, Sheldon said the couple has fostered 20 children. She claimed another agency - one she wouldn’t name - dropped the ball on giving the couple Kristoff’s records
“Mrs. Tucker reached out right after she received this baby, this beautiful innocent child to say where are the medical records? Where is the paperwork? Where is the service plan?” Sheldon explained.
Sheldon also said she believes the child was ill before coming into the Tuckers custody.
Western Mass News has reached out to the state’s Department of Children and Families for a statement. A department spokesperson said:
"The child’s death is a tragedy that resulted in the immediate closure of the foster home, which had been licensed and in good standing since 2017. The Department of Children and Families does not tolerate neglect or abuse of any child and will collaborate with the ongoing criminal proceedings.”
The Tuckers were released on personal recognizance following Thursday's arraignment with conditions that they follow requirements set by DCF. They are due in court for a pretrial hearing in October.