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Provo police investigating heroin death of 1-year-old girl

Police say Penny Mae Cormani, 1, died of a heroin overdose in a Provo home.
Police say Penny Mae Cormani, 1, died of a heroin overdose in a Provo home.

PROVO — Police are investigating the death of a 1-year-old girl who apparently died from a heroin overdose.

Police and paramedics were called to a Provo home, 509 W. 1800 North, on Dec. 2 and found "numerous items of drug paraphernalia," according to four search warrants affidavits unsealed Tuesday in 4th District Court.

Penny Cormani had been playing in a downstairs living room that morning. "Cassandra (Leydsman Richards), the mother of Penny, reported feeding Penny and doing laundry as Penny played in the front room. Cassandra put Penny down for a nap around 11 a.m. with a bottle of approximately 3 oz. of vitamin D milk. Cassandra went to check on Penny at noon and found that she had purple or blue lips and was not responding," according to the affidavits.

The mother said she attempted CPR and called 911. Paramedics took the toddler to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, where she was later pronounced dead.

"Tests returned from the autopsy indicated that Penny had a lethal amount of heroin and that codeine was also present," the warrants state.

The day before, on Dec. 1, the Provo homeowners allowed Richards, Casey Joseph Cormani and their young daughter to stay with them, according to the warrants. The parents and the homeowners all have drug histories, according to court documents.

Provo police searching the residence after Penny's death found "numerous items of drug paraphernalia, including burnt foil with residue and straws with burnt ends and residue. Burnt foil with residue and burnt straws were found inside the room that Cassandra and Casey stayed in both on the ground and among Cassandra's personal belongings. Burnt straws were also found in the living area downstairs on the carpet and on a coffee table," according to the warrants.

"Also found downstairs in the common area was a razor blade on an end table that had a white residue on one side," police wrote. "All of the identified paraphernalia was seen in plain sight. Burnt foil was found in the trash can of the common and only bathroom in the apartment."

The parents denied any illicit drug use, telling detectives "that they consume their medications orally as prescribed," and that the drug paraphernalia found in the house belonged to the homeowners, the affidavits state.

The warrants were served on both couples, and investigators obtained samples of blood and hair follicles to be tested for drugs.

No one has been arrested or charged in connection with the child's death. Provo police declined to release additional information Tuesday, only saying that the investigation is ongoing.

On Dec. 4, two days after Penny's death, Lehi police were called to investigate a report of a drug overdose where Cormani "was present," according to charging documents.

His sister came to pick him up, but she refused to take him if he had any drugs on him. Cormani pulled burned tin foil with "some black tar substance" from his pockets, and police found syringes and heroin in his backpack and sock, the charges state. Officers said Cormani told them the items belonged to the overdose victim and he took them so police wouldn't discover them.

Cormani, 30, was later charged in 4th District Court with possession or use of heroin with two prior convictions, a third-degree felony; possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor; and obstructing justice, a class A misdemeanor.

Richards, 32, was cited by the same Lehi officer and charged with use or possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor. It's unclear whether the citation stems from the same overdose case with Cormani.

The Provo homeowner, 43, "has been arrested and/or convicted for charges including DUI, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of heroin, amphetamine and marijuana, false information to police, resisting arrest and many other charges," one warrant states.

His wife, 49, "has been arrested or convicted for charges including DUI, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of heroin and forged prescriptions," according to another warrant.


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