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Petaluma woman arrested following apparent overdose death of teen son

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The apparent drug overdose death of a 16-year-old at a Petaluma home led to the arrest of his mother, suspected of manslaughter and child endangerment for knowing he had access to drugs, failing to call for help when he suffered a medical emergency and then leaving him in a car alone and walking away before police officers arrived, according to Petaluma police Tuesday.

The teen died before dawn Monday — the third and youngest overdose death in Petaluma in six months.

His mother, Danielle E. Foernsler, 34, and Robert Harrison, 39, of Petaluma went to jail after a police investigation of what happened at Harrison’s Vallejo Street rental home, said Petaluma police Lt. Tim Lyons.

Officers suspect both adults were under the influence of drugs and knew the youth had access to Xanax laced with Fentanyl.

Harrison had recently moved into the house and Foernsler and her son, both transient, had been invited to stay a few nights, Lyons said. Sunday night into Monday, police suspect they all were taking drugs. Evidence at the house showed Xanax, Fentanyl and heroin were available.

“All three were being used. We’re not sure who was using what,” Lyons said.

During the night the mother and man apparently realized the youth was having a medical problem and they apparently put him into a shower in an attempt to treat him, Lyons said. They then carried him outside to a car.

That’s when Harrison’s roommate woke up. “He hears all this commotion, yelling. He wakes up, looks out and sees them carrying this body to the car,” Lyons said.

The roommate called police at 4:17 a.m. telling a dispatcher the teen didn’t appear to be breathing and needed an ambulance.

When officers arrived they found the youth in the car, alone, Lyons said.

Harrison and his roommate were inside the house — the roommate on the phone with a dispatcher and Harrison “trying to recover. He’s all out of breath, sweating, he appears to be under the influence,” Lyons said.

The boy’s mother was gone. “She left on foot,” Lyons said.

An ambulance crew took the teen to Petaluma Valley Hospital. Emergency staff pronounced him dead at 5:09 a.m.

While officers were at the house Foernsler returned, giving them a false name and saying she was the victim’s cousin. She later corrected her identity, admitting to being his mother, Lyons said. She’d given a false name because she knew she was wanted on robbery arrest warrants.

Foernsler also appeared to have been using drugs and had at least one fresh needle mark, Lyons said.

While officers investigated they heard the sound of a ringing phone led them to an outside garbage can. “They looked in the garbage can and found a laptop briefcase with a loaded gun, loaded needle and his (Harrison’s) phone,” Lyons said.

Harrison was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment, and possessing the gun, drugs and being under the influence. Foernsler was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, felony child endangerment and two robbery warrants.

The suspects were booked into the Sonoma County Jail. Harrison wasn’t in custody Tuesday, Foernsler remained in jail, held without bail.

Police still are piecing together recent history of Foernsler and her son. The woman’s last known address was in Santa Rosa but it appeared she’d been homeless for awhile, Lyons said. Her son also was a transient and it didn’t appear he’d gone to school in some time, Lyons said.

Members of the boy’s family Tuesday declined to be interviewed.

The teen’s death was the third time since Friday Petaluma officers had gone to a drug-overdose call. There have been 19 other drug-related overdose calls in the last six months, Lyons said. Two others ended in death, both 23‑year‑old males.

Most of the cases involved heroin, but officers also are seeing an increase in medical cases involving Fentanyl, he said. Fentanyl is a powerful opioid pain medication.

Lyons asked anyone with information on the teen’s case to contact Detective Walt Spiller at 707-778‑4372.