A Livermore man was arrested and charged with murder this week in connection with the August death of his young daughter who was found to have toxic levels of fentanyl in her system, according to authorities.
Justin Pittman, 22, was taken into custody without incident in Martinez on Wednesday and booked into the Santa Rita Jail on charges that also include child abuse causing death and multiple special allegations.
His 23-month-old daughter, Francesca Pittman, died at an area hospital soon after emergency responders were called out to a house on Turnstone Drive for a report of a child who was not breathing around 4:30 p.m. Aug. 18, police said.
The ensuing investigation took multiple months before the autopsy and toxicology results were completed and the case forwarded to the Alameda County District Attorney's Office for review and ultimately the issuance of a new arrest warrant this week for Justin Pittman -- who has another criminal case pending for allegedly assaulting a correctional deputy while he was in jail for five days after his daughter's death before being released with charges not yet filed.
"Fentanyl is an extremely dangerous drug and impacts the lives of many," Livermore Police Chief Jeramy Young said in a statement. "Fentanyl use and the illegal distribution of the drug is a nationwide epidemic. This is a tragic loss for the family and our community, and I look forward to justice being served so there is some closure."
Young said the toddler's death was among four fentanyl-related deaths recorded in the city of Livermore so far in 2022.
According to police, Pittman admitted to using fentanyl two days before finding his daughter unresponsive and acknowledged that the child could have been exposed to the drug.
Pittman was scheduled to be arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court in Dublin on Friday, with results still pending. It was not immediately clear whether he is represented by an attorney yet.
Livermore police Detective Ivan Alvarez described the sad scene when officers arrived at the house on Turnstone Drive, near Hagemann Park, in a probable cause declaration filed with the court.
A woman had called 9-1-1 around 4:30 p.m. Aug. 18 to report a child -- later identified as Francesca Pittman -- had been sleeping but now her skin was purple and she wasn't breathing, according to Alvarez. A family member was performing CPR, and the first-arriving police officers provided assistance.
Paramedics soon took the 23-month-old to a local hospital, where she died, according to Alvarez.
During the ensuing investigation, detectives were told that the toddler's father, identified as Justin Pittman, was the sole adult caregiver watching his daughter on the day she was found unresponsive by his wife, the girl's mother, according to Alvarez.
The mother told investigators that she got home from work around 4 p.m. that day and soon after another family member mentioned they hadn't heard from Francesca all day, "which was odd behavior since the child was a healthy 23-month-old child," Alvarez wrote.
"The mother of the child went into the room and found Justin and the child on the bed. The mother of the child saw that the child was purple in color and unresponsive," Alvarez stated. "No other person was found to be in the room throughout the day or the night prior."
The mother carried the toddler to the backyard, where family members began performing CPR and 9-1-1 was called; they then continued life-saving measures as they brought the child to the driveway, according to Alvarez.
Pittman reportedly told paramedics upon arrival that they should give his daughter Narcan, a medication known as treatment for the effects of an opioid overdose, according to Alvarez. When asked by an officer moments later, Pittman allegedly said the Narcan was needed due to possible fentanyl exposure.
Later, in an interview after Miranda rights were read, Pittman admitted being addicted to fentanyl, that he used it two days before finding his daughter unresponsive and that the child could have been exposed to fentanyl, according to Alvarez.
"Justin told investigators that he did not know what happened to his child despite being the sole provider of the child and no other person had contact with the child that day," Alvarez wrote. "Giving (sic) the totality of the circumstances, Justin was negligent in his cause for caring for his 23 month old child as his behavior and non-expressive wellbeing caused the death of his child."
Livermore police reported arresting Pittman on Aug. 18 in connection with his daughter's death, and he remained in Santa Rita Jail until Aug. 23, when he was released because charges had not been filed and the investigation was ongoing.
During his stay in jail, Pittman was accused of assaulting a correctional officer on the evening of Aug. 23.
Deputy Daniel Herrara wrote in a probable cause declaration that Pittman refused to go back to his cell when ordered and became confrontational.
"Breaking free from my grasp Pittman became assaultive by grabbing my wrist with his hand, preventing me from gaining control of him," Herrera wrote. "Due to Pittman refusing to comply with my commands and tensing of his body, I deemed it necessary to perform a leg sweep takedown on Pittman and took him to the ground to end his assault."
The DA's office filed misdemeanor charges of obstructing a peace officer and battery upon an officer against Pittman on Sept. 29.
Meanwhile, the investigation into Francesca Pittman's death continued.
"After a thorough investigation and review of the autopsy and toxicology reports, it was determined that the baby had toxic levels of fentanyl in her blood at the time of her death. The Alameda County District Attorney's Office issued a warrant for Pittman's arrest," Livermore police said this Thursday.
Pittman was subsequently arrested without incident on the murder warrant on Wednesday at about 5 p.m. in the parking lot of a business in Martinez, according to police.
Pittman faces felony counts of murder and child abuse causing death, as well as special allegations of having a prior violent or serious felony conviction, causing bodily harm, willful harm resulting in death and having a particularly vulnerable victim, according to the criminal complaint.