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A child’s death and a mystery: How did Mehlaya
get the fentanyl? ‘I felt my heart shatter’

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Heaven Blue was 18 years old when she gave birth to her daughter nearly three years ago in Syracuse.

Blue grew up without her parents, bouncing among foster care homes, she said. A daughter, she thought, would be the chance to finally have the love of a family. She named her baby Mehlaya Adore Blue – or “Laylay.”

“I came from homes that wasn’t good to me, people that wasn’t good to me,” Blue said. “I wanted to show my daughter that you don’t have to come from that.”

Since family was important, Blue said, she wanted Mehlaya to spend time with her father and his mother. So on April 25, Blue dropped off her 2-year-old for another visit with the grandmother on the city’s South Side.

Somehow in that overnight stay, Mehlaya swallowed the highly potent opioid fentanyl, according to an investigation by the state Office of Children and Family Services. It killed her.

The death leaves a grieving mother and a tragic mystery: How did a healthy 2-year-old get access to a dangerous and illegal drug? Was it an accident or an intentional dosing? Whose drugs killed her?

Someone out there knows these answers. But the state investigators didn’t say where the fentanyl came from. The parents say they don’t know. Police and prosecutors are working it, but they are not answering questions yet. No charges have been filed.

Whoever is responsible, Mehlaya’s death ended Blue’s dream of a life together, a family filled with love.

“I felt my heart shatter,” she said. “And it hasn’t come back.”

After she died, the little girl was cremated. Since then, inside her mother’s purse is a clear plastic sandwich bag, full of a light gray powder. Mehlaya’s ashes.

Blue carries her daughter with her every day, keeping her safely tucked away.

She said she hopes to find out how her daughter, who would have turned three this month, became another American fentanyl victim.

“I will get justice for my daughter,” Blue said, “and at some point her case will be at peace.”


Heaven Blue carries photos and the ashes of daughter, Mehlaya, in her purse.

The Youngest Victims

Fentanyl use is exploding in Syracuse and across the country, killing drug users unprepared for its deadly power. But it has also caught growing numbers of children in its trap.

Mehlaya is one of about 150 people in Onondaga County who were killed last year by the drug. An amount equal to five or 10 grains of salt can kill an adult. Imagine the risk to a child.

Fentanyl was blamed for 5,194 fatal pediatric opioid poisonings in the United States between 1999 and 2021, according to Julie Gaither, a Yale School of Medicine researcher. Pediatric deaths from fentanyl have risen 3,000% since 2013.

In 2022, a Syracuse baby named Liam Sauve was fed fentanyl by his mother and her boyfriend to calm him down, authorities allege. At death, he had in his system 23 times the amount it takes to kill an adult, authorities said. Now his mother and her boyfriend face charges.

‘It was just going to be us’

Growing up, Blue’s parents weren’t really in her life, she said, blaming parental indifference, mental health issues and drug abuse.

She felt loveless, like no one was there for her, she said. She moved through foster families in Syracuse, Elmira, Schenectady, and other cities around the state.

Eventually, at age 17, the revolving door opened back in Syracuse. That’s where she met Mehlaya’s father. The pair talked and went to baseball games. Blue became pregnant.

Mothers often talk about an instant love and connection when their baby is placed in their arms. Blue admitted she didn’t feel that with Mehlaya. She was scared. In the hospital, she couldn’t bring herself to hold her baby.

“I didn’t receive love the way that I see other people receive love, so it was very hard for me to do that the first time,” she said.

Once Blue made it home with Mehlaya, she said, she finally fell in love. She saw her daughter as a gift.

“I realized it was just going to be us,” Blue said.

Mehlaya was a charmer, who loved dancing and cookies. Blue said she was determined to give her daughter a good life. Blue knew reading was important, so she read to her daughter. She wanted Mehlaya to see her as a hero.

“I was giving her the love I never had,” she said.

But sometimes her life could be violent.

Mehlaya’s father once broke down Blue’s door, choking her and kicking her repeatedly in the head in front of their baby, according to the state investigation. Blue required medical attention and Mehlaya’s father was arrested, authorities said.

‘They said she ate drugs’

On April 24, Blue and her daughter spent the day at the zoo, Blue said. For the first time, Mehlaya had an ice cream sundae. Blue said she dropped Mehlaya off at her grandmother’s apartment.

Blue said she doesn’t know what happened there.

The state report into Mehlaya’s death sheds some light. The Office of Children and Family Services routinely investigates the deaths of children if there is suspicion of neglect or abuse or if the family was previously involved with child protective services.

The reports routinely do not reveal the names of anyone involved. But We've independently determined that it details Mehlaya’s death from the overdose.

During Mehlaya’s visit, her grandmother and her grandmother’s boyfriend were in the home, according to the report. ( They aren't identifying them because no one has been charged.) The grandmother went to work and the boyfriend was left to look after Mehlaya, the boyfriend told state authorities.

He told them that Mehlaya was knocked down by the family dog outside, hitting landscaping bricks. Later, he said, she fell off her scooter and injured her nose, according to the report.

Outdoor surveillance video of the home from the day Mehlaya died doesn’t show her going outside, state investigators said. It does capture the grandmother’s boyfriend leaving the apartment without her for 25 minutes while the grandmother was away at work, authorities said.

He is the one who alerted Mehlaya’s grandmother when the child went limp and had blood on her cheek, the report said. The grandmother told authorities that at first she thought he was kidding. Around 7 a.m., they both called 911.

Blue was driving to her job at Taco Bell when she got a call, but her phone was off. When she got to work her boss was waiting with a message: Mehlaya was at the hospital.

Blue raced to the hospital, but it was too late.

Mehlaya’s autopsy revealed that, in addition to the drugs, she had bruising on her face and back, according to the state report. That has not been explained.

Blue said she couldn’t find out how her daughter died. Blue kept calling detectives and child protective services workers, she said. After eight months, a child protective worker told her Mehlaya died of a fentanyl overdose, Blue said.

“They said she ate drugs,” Blue said.

The amount needed to kill someone is very small even for adults and depends on a person’s body weight, said Dr. Vincent Calleo, medical director of the Upstate NY Poison Center in Syracuse.

Often children eat the fentanyl or put it in their mouth, he said. When a kid ingests fentanyl, it’s noticeable. The kid becomes sleepy and less responsive, and their breathing decreases, he said.

Blue questions whether the people taking care of Mehlaya knew fentanyl was in the apartment and if someone could’ve gotten her medical help sooner.

‘Three sides to every story’

Mehlaya’s father, Jaymirre Huddleston, 25, wasn’t in the apartment during his daughter’s visit, according to the state report. That day, his mother called him to say Mehlaya wasn’t breathing and had been rushed to the hospital, he said.

He doesn’t know how his daughter got the fentanyl, he said. His mother has no history of drugs, he said.

“The only thing that I can really think of is maybe my mom or her boyfriend had some company or something, and someone dropped it,” he said.

His mother and her boyfriend spoke with police the day Mehlaya died, Huddleston said. Police later searched the apartment and the couple were taken in by officers for questioning, he said.

After the autopsy found the drugs, the grandmother and her boyfriend stopped cooperating with law enforcement, according to the state report. No charges have been filed.

Huddleston, a truck driver, said he talked with police after the death. A few months later, police called and wanted him to come in for questioning, he said. He said he asked police to meet him somewhere else and he never heard back.

“All I can say is it’s always three sides to every story with their side, our side and the truth,” he said. “As far as now, none of us know the truth.”

He, like Blue, has Mehlaya with him every day. After her death, Huddleston got a tattoo over his ribcage: a portrait of his daughter.

‘I don’t ever think I’ll just be OK’

Heaven Blue is still grieving. She cries easily when talking about her daughter. She feels guilty for leaving Mehlaya someplace unsafe. And she feels a crushing loss.

“I have to look at memories of my kid when I just want to hold her,” she said.

Eventually, she hopes that through justice for Mehlaya she will find peace.

“I don’t ever think I’ll just be OK,” Blue said. I think I’ll just learn how to deal with it.”

For now, Blue said, she has no answers.

“I felt like my daughter was neglected. I felt like she wasn’t cared for properly that night,” she said. “I feel like the whole story about my daughter’s death just needs to be out. It just needs to be told.”

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