Muskingum County Prosecutor
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 1, 2024
Pregnant Zanesville Mother’s Drug Case Highlights Need for Reform, Resources
On December 28, 2022, Zanesville Police officers responded to come to the aid of an eleven-year-old child whose life had been placed in jeopardy by Kayleigh Knox’s drug addiction. Almost exactly two years later, another child entered life in jeopardy because of Knox’s actions.
On January 24, 2024, Knox plead guilty to endangering children, two counts of possession of drugs, and possession of drug paraphernalia from the December incident. She also plead guilty to possession of drugs from another case in June where she was caught using drugs in a supermarket parking lot. Knox, pregnant at the time, was released on bond after that offense, which she violated by failing to show up for her drug test.
Knox was finally caught after giving birth on January 1 to one of the first children born in Franklin County in 2024. The child was born addicted to drugs and was immediately placed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at a Columbus hospital. The child is now in the care of Muskingum County Children’s Services and is being cared-for at 100-percent taxpayer expense.
Despite repeated efforts by local government officials and outraged community members, inaction at the Ohio Statehouse has ensured that it remains non-criminal for a mother to poison her pregnancy with illegal drugs and to give birth to children who are addicted to lethal narcotics. Professors, defense attorneys, and lobbying organizations have made an argument that drug addicted women will not seek medical treatment during pregnancy if pregnant drug-use is prohibited, equating the missing of a doctor’s appointment with the harm caused to a child by a fentanyl-laced womb.
In Knox’s case, the prosecutor’s office will be arguing for a maximum, consecutive sentence to safeguard the public and any future children from her dangerous behavior. Her attorney has requested that she receive “intervention in lieu of conviction,” a mechanism created by the legislature to enable felons to attend classes and then have their crimes dismissed and expunged as if the crimes never happened.
Knox will be sentenced at a later date.
State Representative Adam Holmes, whose district includes Zanesville, says drug use by pregnant mothers is a tragic and pressing issue in the community.
“Drug use during pregnancy is one of the most tragic issues facing our community,” Holmes said. “Our ultimate goal is to eliminate illegal drug use by everyone, but drug use by expectant mothers uniquely harms the most vulnerable members of our society. After exhausting all other prevention efforts, criminal punishment for pregnant women who use illegal drugs appears to be our only remaining tool to help ensure these women make better personal health choices and protect innocent children.”
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John Litle, who handled the case in Muskingum Court of Common Pleas, says illegal drug use by mothers leads to more crime, more poverty, and more drug addiction.
“It is absolutely exhausting dealing with the endless line of abusive, selfish women who poison the future of our next generation with their pregnancy drug use,” Litle said. “This all feeds into the generational cycles of crime, poverty and addiction. These children are at such a disadvantage, and both society at large and the children individually will pay the price for their mother’s actions for the rest of their lives.”
Litle says the scourge of motherhood drug abuse is a pandemic that lawmakers in the Ohio Statehouse need to address.
“We have tried everything to address this issue, and we’re not alone,” Litle said. “County after county deals with this problem only to be shut down in various ways. We need leadership and backbone at the statehouse to take on this crisis, set aside clever arguments from academics, and either hand out the tools necessary to either stop women from using drugs while pregnant or else house them in the Ohio Reformatory for Women, in Marysville, where they can’t continue endangering children.”
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