Charges filed against a woman not only allege she failed to keep a fatal dose of fentanyl hidden from her 7-year-old daughter but that St. Paul school officials suspected months earlier that the girl had been injured by her mother but they did not alert authorities until after the child died.
Shauntaija J. Travis, 27, was jailed Monday afternoon in connection with the overdose of Za'Maiya Travis on March 3, six days before the girl was to be moved to the Twin Cities home of a relative who had reported concerns about the child's well-being to Ramsey County child protection officials.
Travis was charged in District Court with two counts of second-degree manslaughter alleging child negligence and endangerment.
She appeared in court Tuesday and remains jailed on $500,000 bail. Court records do not list an attorney for Travis. Her next hearing is scheduled for July 3.
According to the criminal complaint, Za'Maiya told staff at Benjamin E. Mays School in the late fall of 2022 that her mother had burned her on her chest. However, the complaint said, school officials did not promptly alert county childprotection officials as required by the state's mandatory reporter law.
St. Paul Public Schools spokeswoman Erica Wacker, after being sent a copy of the criminal complaint, said Tuesday that "the district does not comment on pending legal matters."
Chris Burns, spokesman for the county's Health and Wellness Service Team, declined to take questions about Za'Maiya's case.
Burns instead issued a statement saying that child protection staff "are continuing to work through this unforeseen tragedy. County child protection staff work hard to protect children every day and strive to meet the best interests of children and their families."
According to the criminal complaint and other court documents:
Relatives told police that Travis was in a custody dispute with other family members and agreed to have Za'Maiya live with the girl's great-grandmother for a year starting April 5. At that time, Travis "was going to sign a delegation of parental authority with Ramsey County child protection," one court document read.
The great-grandmother told police that Za'Maiya's clothing was in poor condition, had a foul odor and the girl complained of being hungry.
The court document also said the great-grandmother and another relative tried "to work with St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) ... to protect [Za'Maiya], but have not been successful since SPPS will not speak with them because they are not the legal guardians."
The relative once tried to take Za'Maiya from school to somewhere safe, the document said, but staff intervened and warned him that would be kidnapping. The relative told police he wished he had risked being charged with kidnapping because Za'Maiya would be alive.
At the urging of school staff about three weeks before the child's death, the great-grandmother contacted child protection officials. They then began working with the family to have the girl move in with her in early April.
However, school officials waited until two weeks after Za'Maiya died to file a report about suspected maltreatment. After the girl told school personnel that she had been burned by her mother, staff looked at the wound and said it appeared old.
"There is no indication that staff, who are mandated reporters, contacted anyone about the incident at the time they learned of it," the charges read.
Failure of mandatory reporters to meet their legal obligations can bring a misdemeanor charge.
Police searched school records April 12 in connection with Za'Maiya's death, but "the School District refused to allow [police] investigators to speak with staff," the complaint continued.
Travis said she called 911 because she was unable to awaken her daughter at 6:05 a.m. for school, the complaint read. She said Za'Maiya 's complexion appeared purple, and the girl's hands were clenched. Fire Department personnel declared Za'Maiya dead at the scene.
Responding officers searched the bedroom where Travis, her boyfriend and Za'Maiya slept. In Travis' purse was a straw with white residue, crumbs of suspected drugs and a blue pill containing fentanyl, the charges said. The officers found no other drugs in the home.
Travis told police that she was taking oxycodone for pain until the prescription ran out, the complaint said. She then was given the drug by a friend before turning to fentanyl bought on the street, according to the charges.