YAKIMA — A Wapato woman was found guilty in her second trial on charges that her toddler son died of a fentanyl overdose through her neglect.
Samantha Marie Tainewasher, 39, was found guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court on charges of involuntary manslaughter and using a communication facility in the commission of a drug felony.
Jurors also found Calvin James Hunt, who was accused of bringing the fentanyl into the trailer where Tainewasher and her son were living, guilty of involuntary manslaughter, possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute and using a communication facility in the commission of a drug felony.
Tainewasher’s first trial in 2022 ended in a mistrial when Hunt, a 51-year-old Toppenish man, invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself and prosecutors refused to grant him immunity.
Judge Stanley A. Bastian declared a mistrial on grounds that Hunt was a critical witness in the case.
Tainewasher and Hunt were tried in federal court because they are both Native Americans and the crime occurred on the Yakama Reservation in the Lower Valley.
Steven Anthony Ranes Jr., who was 15 months, died March 29, 2020, in a camper trailer in the Wapato area where Tainewasher was living. Tainewasher woke up that morning and found her child was unresponsive.
Prosecutors said Steven had taken fentanyl pills that were in the trailer.
A video of the inside of the trailer shortly before Steven’s death showed what appeared to be drugs on a mirror, and that Tainewasher saw Hunt had a bag of pills earlier.
The communication charge stemmed from Hunt’s use of Facebook Messenger to set up drug deals, and Tainewasher was accused of aiding and abetting that.
In an earlier interview, defense attorney Rick Smith argued that Steven’s death was an accident.