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Two Get Life in Prison for Death of Baby in Meth House

Cleveland.com, September 24, 2012

AKRON, Ohio — The Akron mother of a 17-month-old boy was sentenced to life in prison for her part in the death of the child, who had been forced to swallow methampetamine.

Judge Thomas Parker sentenced Heather Lerch, 21, to life in prison with parole eligibility after 22 years. Her son, Patrick Lerch, died on Feb. 26.

Ronald Legg, 22, of Akron, was also sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after 27 years. Legg is the brother of Lerch's boyfriend. The Akron Beacon-Journal reported that according to court testimony, Legg at one time stuffed a coffee filter laced with the drug into the child's mouth. Another Akron man, Allen Kostra, 25, was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Lerch's boyfriend, Randy Legg, will be sentenced later this month for his role in the death.

In a statement, the Summit County prosecutor's office said the child ingested large amounts of methamphetamine. The boy and his mother had moved into the home where Randy Legg was living just days before Patrick died.

"Patrick was kept in the home's rat-infested basement in the care of Ronald Legg and Kostra, who were cooking and high on meth," said the prosecutor's release. "The monstrous actions of these three individuals are incomprehensible. They sat back and did nothing while an innocent child suffered."

Kostra pleaded guilty Aug. 16 to involuntary manslaughter, child endangering and illegal manufacture of drugs. A jury found Lerch guilty of murder, involuntary manslaughter and child endangering on Aug. 27.

On Friday, Ronald Legg pleaded guilty to murder, child endangering and illegal manufacturing of drugs. Randy Legg, 20, pleaded guilty the same day to involuntary manslaughter and illegal possession of chemicals to manufacture drugs. He will be sentenced on Oct. 23.

Lt. Rick Edwards, an Akron police spokesman, said previously that the baby was found unresponsive by his mother on Feb. 26.

She called police and EMS, and the baby was rushed to Akron Children's Hospital but was dead on arrival.While in the house, police noticed strong chemical odors.

"They recognized the odors as coming from a methamphetamine laboratory," said Edwards. "They found the full lab in the basement where the baby had been living. I've never seen anything like this."

The Summit County medical examiner ruled the boy died of "methamphetamine intoxication due to the inhalation of chemicals during his abuse and neglect.