DCF investigated mother for child neglect before boy died of fentanyl overdose

Fort Lauderdale police officers arrested Gertrude Desir on July 14 and she is facing charges for her son's 2019 death in Broward County. (BSO)

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. – The Florida Department of Children and Families investigated a mother for child neglect over drug use before her two-year-old son died of a fentanyl overdose, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office detective.

BSO Detective Mike Roque reported Morgan Cundle, a DCF child protective investigator, told him Gertrude Desir had been under investigation for child neglect after her newborn baby tested positive for marijuana.

Desir “admitted to using marijuana a month before she gave birth but denied using cocaine” — even though she tested positive for both, according to an arrest warrant’s affidavit.

Roque reported that Cundle said DCF had warned Desir “that she needed to stay clean in order to keep custody of her children.” Desir ended up losing her son. The investigation revealed the boy died with enough fentanyl in his body to kill seven adults.

Roque reported that he discussed the case with Dr. Gary Kunsman in March. The chief toxicologist at the Broward County Medical Examiner & Trauma Services reported Desir’s son had “extremely high lethal levels” of fentanyl in his system.

The toxicology report showed there were 21 nanograms per milliliter in his blood when a concentration of 3 ng/ml is lethal in an adult, according to an arrest warrant’s affidavit.

Fire Rescue personnel found the boy unresponsive on Oct. 7, 2019. He was inside the one-bedroom apartment in Pompano Beach that he shared with Desir, an older sibling, and his grandmother Marie Desir, deputies said.

A doctor pronounced him dead at the hospital. In the bedroom he shared with his mother, inches away from his toys, there was a closet drawer full of drugs, deputies said. There were pill capsules, clear baggies, white powder, brown rocks, and a mini-scale, according to the warrant.

Deputies later confirmed the substances were fentanyl and cocaine. Broward Circuit Judge Stacy Ross issued an arrest warrant on July 13. Records show Fort Lauderdale police officers arrested Desir on July 14. She was accused of breaking into a home.

Desir appeared in court on July 15. And as of Thursday evening, deputies had been holding her without bond at the North Broward Bureau in Pompano Beach for about two weeks.

Broward County court records show Desir is facing charges of aggravated manslaughter of a child, possession of a controlled substance (fentanyl), possession of a controlled substance (cocaine), and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Read the arrest warrant


About the Author:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.