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Drugs Blamed : 2 Whose Baby Died in Filth Get Probation

Times Staff Writer

Moments after the prosecutor said they already had suffered “the greatest punishment any man or woman can face,” a North Hollywood couple whose baby died in their trash-filled apartment were sentenced Friday to three years’ probation.

San Fernando Superior Court Judge Robert D. Fratianne also sentenced Christopher Thomas Chacon, 22, to 180 days in jail and Lori Ann Needham, 20, to 90 days, but gave them the option of serving the sentences in a live-in drug-treatment program.

The couple’s 15-day-old son, Steven Christopher Chacon, died of an infection Oct. 26, three days after being circumcised. Prosecutors said the infection was caused by the filth in the apartment.

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“Their main concern was not the baby. Their main concern was cocaine and alcohol,” Fratianne said before pronouncing sentence.

Police said the roach-infested apartment was so strewn with dirty diapers, beer cans, clothes and other items that investigators found it difficult to walk.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Kenneth A. Loveman told Fratianne before sentencing that the couple “loved their child” and are genuinely remorseful about his death.

Saying he believes the couple have already been punished by their child’s death, Loveman declined to take a stand for or against their serving time in jail.

Called a Difficult Decision

“This is one of the hardest decisions you will ever have to make on the bench. . . . I thank the Lord I am not the judge on this case,” Loveman told Fratianne.

They have already suffered “the greatest punishment that any man or woman can suffer,” Loveman said. “Deep down, they know their filth killed their baby, and they have to live with it the rest of their lives,” he said.

Needham sobbed quietly throughout the proceedings.

The couple could have received up to a year in jail. Needham had no previous convictions, and Chacon had been arrested once for drunk driving, according to their probation report.

Attorneys for Needham and Chacon had asked for court-supervised probation, contending that the infection was unrelated to the condition of the apartment.

As a condition of probation, Chacon and Needham were ordered to refrain from using non-prescription drugs or alcohol.

A charge of involuntary manslaughter against the couple was dismissed after they pleaded guilty last March to child endangering.

The couple’s other child, a 2-year-old daughter, is in the custody of her maternal grandmother.


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