Utah woman charged in the death of her 4-month-old daughter

Tests showed the infant had methamphetamine in her system, but her exact cause of death is undetermined.

A 24-year-old Salt Lake City woman has been charged with killing her 4-month old daughter last year — although the exact cause of the child’s death has not been determined.

Tara Lynn Bowers was charged in 3rd District Court with child abuse homicide, a second-degree felony; and two counts of exposing a child to controlled substances, third-degree felonies. Joshua Leon Ekker, 43, who was sharing an apartment with Bowers, was charged with three counts of child endangerment, third-degree felonies..

According to police, they were called to a South Salt Lake apartment on May 13, 2020, because Bowers’ daughter was unresponsive. Officers attempted to revive the child, but were unsuccessful. She was taken to Intermountain Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

In charging documents, police wrote that Bowers “struggled to answer questions” about what happened to her daughter, that her “statements were inconsistent” and she “had a confused look on her face and could not provide officers with a timeline or description of events.” Additionally, as she was being transported to the police station, “Bowers asked if she could first be taken to the suboxone clinic to get her suboxone injection.”

(Suboxone is a drug used to reduce symptoms of opiate addiction and withdrawal.)

According to police, they found syringes, a meth pipe and a baggie that contained a substance that tested positive as methamphetamine in Bowers’ bathroom.

A supervisor with the Utah Division of Child and Family Services told police there had been “numerous reports” about Bowers and her children, including the 4-month-old who died, as well as two boys who were about 2 and 3 at the time. The older children were born exposed to heroin and suboxone; they had been in foster care and were returned to Bowers in September 2019.

Ekker told police he woke up at 5 a.m. on May 13 after sleeping on a futon with two of the children. He said he fed the baby a bottle, and that when he left for work the baby was fine.

He also told police that “typically, Bowers is hard to wake up” because “she’s a recovering addict, takes anti-depressants and receives suboxone injections.” But, he said, she was awake when he went to work.

Ekker said that in the weeks before the baby died, he found Bowers on top of her, passed out, with the child struggling to breathe. He admitted there were drugs in the apartment, adding that Bowers had asked him to do meth with her in the hours before the baby died, but he declined.

Bowers told police that when she woke up on May 13, the baby was lying facedown on the edge of the bed. Thinking the infant was sleeping, Bowers moved the girl to the middle of the bed, then left the room. When she returned, she noticed the girl’s “toes didn’t look right.” She said she turned the baby over, saw she wasn’t breathing and attempted CPR, which didn’t work.

According to the police detective who questioned her, Bowers “was evasive with her answers,” was “was continually falling asleep” and “appeared confused.” She did not remember what happened in the approximately five hours between when Ekker left the apartment and she woke up.

Bowers told the detective she had been “drinking a little bit, but I didn’t have that much.” She had “a couple shots” but “didn’t drink enough to black out.” She also admitted to using methamphetamine the night before the baby died, and a blood test showed meth in her system.

Additionally, hair follicle tests on the two boys also tested positive for meth.

According to an assistant Utah medical examiner, while toxicology tests showed the baby had meth in her system, an autopsy could not determine the cause of her death — although death by asphyxiation could not be ruled out. After consulting with a medical expert at the University of Utah, it was determined that “the sleep environment in which [the baby] died was filled with dangerous, potentially lethal components: pillows, sheets, and other people.”

A warrant was issued Thursday for Bowers’ arrest. A summons was issued for Ekker.

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