PITTSFIELD, Mass. — An Adams couple have been indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment of a child related to the death of their foster child, 10-month-old Kristoff William Zenopoulos
, more than a year ago.
Matthew Tucker and Cassandra Barlow-Tucker were arraigned in Superior Court on Thursday.
"Kristoff's death was preventable and the Berkshire District Attorney's office is seeking justice," District Attorney Andrea Harrington said at a press conference outside Superior Court after the arraignment. "No child should die because a caregiver failed to provide basic medical care. ...
"I want to thank the grand jury for their careful deliberations in returning indictments on these charges."
The Tuckers, both 37 years old, pleaded not guilty and were released on personal recognizance with conditions that they follow requirements set by the Department of Children and Families.
Kristoff was found deceased in his crib on the morning of Feb. 18 and pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy performed by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined that he died from complications of a streptococcus infection and pneumonia, resulting in a buildup of pus in the infant's pleural cavity, the membrane lining the lungs.
Harrington said Adams Police Detective Travis Cunningham was the first individual on the scene and discovered that the infant was already dead.
Investigators said Kristoff showed visible signs of illness during the two weeks preceding his death while he was in the care of the Tuckers, who did not seek medical attention. Harrington said evidence demonstrated Kristoff was "feverish and had a really significant cough."
In March, Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Ilberg presented evidence to the grand jury that antibiotics routinely are used to treat these underlying illnesses, and that the Tuckers failure to obtain medical care caused Kristoff to develop widespread infection and significant buildup of pus in his pleural cavity, and collapsed lung.
If convicted, the Tuckers are facing at least 40 to 60 months in state prison. Twenty years is the maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter.
On Thursday, Harrington was granted a motion with the court requesting authorization to turn over the investigation files to the office of the child advocate, whose job is to review the care of any children in commonwealth custody. The child advocate will do a complete and thorough review of the case and will be the source of comments on the situation with the Department of Children and Families, she said.
"What I can say from my perspective is, and what these indictments demonstrate, is that criminally, the people who have been charged today are responsible for the death of Kristoff Zenopoulos," Harrington said.
"It was a very thorough investigation, we presented all of our evidence to the grand jury and they return these indictments, based on the finding that under the statute if you look at that statute, there has to be wanton or reckless disregard. So they absolutely found that we've had evidence to demonstrate that it was reckless for them."
DCF had legal custody of the infant at the time of his death. He was placed in the Tuckers' care around Dec. 5, 2019. He was born in Pittsfield on April 17, 2019, son of Kayla Lacey Zenopoulos.
According to an online profile, the Tuckers have been foster parents for about four years. Harrington confirmed that they have been licensed foster parents for a number of years and have had a number of children in their care.
At this point, they are no longer foster parents through DCF.
The next steps are a pre-trial hearing for both of the Tuckers that is set to occur in late July and early August. Harrington said there will likely be motions to dismiss in between now and that more information will become publicly available.
"I want to send my condolences to the family of Kristoff William Zenopoulos who are devastated by the loss of their loved one," Harrington said. "I also want to thank the first responders who responded to the scene."