A Three Forks woman is accused of negligently causing the death of her newborn after police say they discovered traces of drugs in the infant’s hair and unsafe living conditions for the baby.

Shannoa Kimberly Dougherty is charged with felony negligent homicide. Prosecutors filed the charges in Gallatin County District Court in August.

Dougherty pleaded not guilty to the homicide charge in October and was released without bail. No trial date has been set.

In an emailed statement Friday, Buddy Rutzke, Dougherty’s attorney, said Dougherty is struggling with the loss of her child. He said his investigation and review of the prosecutor’s evidence indicates that the baby died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

“We will continue to try to help her cope with the loss of her child as well as reliving that trauma while this case is litigated,” Rutzke said.

On June 20, 2018, Gallatin County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a home on Old Yellowstone Trail Road in Three Forks for a report of an unresponsive infant, according to charging documents. The baby was born earlier that month.

The baby was pronounced dead at around 9:30 a.m., after being flown from the Three Forks Airport to Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital, court documents say.

Dougherty spoke with the detective at the hospital and admitted smoking marijuana at her house the night before the baby died, court documents say.

Police said in charging documents that Dougherty had messages on her cellphone about buying drugs, including a conversation a month before the baby was born when Dougherty and her brother discussed distribution and use of hydrocodone, Xanax and Lorazepam.

Text messages from the day of the baby’s death show that Dougherty’s brother said he’d give her “a little bump,” which she later said was meth, court documents say.

Several days after the incident, lab results for the baby’s hair tested positive for the presence of amphetamines, methamphetamine and cannabinoids, court documents say. A blood sample taken from Dougherty on the day of the incident also tested positive for the presence of amphetamine, methamphetamine and marijuana.

In December 2018, Dougherty admitted to a detective that she occasionally ingested drugs on weekends when she was pregnant with the baby, court documents say. Asked about the drugs she used the week before the infant died, Dougherty told the detective that she was using “Oxy tens.” She told detectives that she used “Hydros and Vicodin” after the baby was born.

Charging documents say a doctor reviewed evidence in 2019 and reported that the “case is being diagnosed as definite child neglect and as a definite drug endangered child.” State medical examiners could not determine an exact cause of death.

If convicted, Dougherty could face up to a $50,000 fine and up to 20 years in prison.

Freddy Monares can be reached at fmonares@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-2630.

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