LONDONDERRY – Disturbing allegations that led to the death of a 2-year-old girl at a truck stop were revealed in court Wednesday afternoon, when the toddler’s parents were arraigned.
Mark Geremia, 32, of Northfield, and Shawna Cote, 29, of Tilton, are facing a long list of charges, most notably negligent homicide, a special felony charge of manslaughter and falsifying physical evidence, according to court documents.
Geremia was additionally charged with possessing child sex abuse images after investigators said they found cell phone photos of his young daughters sprawled out nude while asleep.
After hearing details of the months-long investigation, Judge David Ruoff ruled that both parents will remain in preventative detention until their separate trials. They cannot have any contact with children, he said, including their own.
The couple has three children together, including the 2-year-old who died soon after being rushed from RMZ truck stop to Parkland Medical Center in November.
Another girl, age 4, and a newborn boy — who showed immediate signs of heroin addiction at birth — are in the care of other family members and DCYF, according to statements made in court.
Given a chance to speak for herself at Wednesday’s hearing, Cote told the judge of her addiction issues and efforts to get clean, as well as a desire to celebrate her only remaining daughter’s fifth birthday with her this week.
“I’ve been in a medically assisted treatment program and I’m on a Suboxone program,” she said. “I have completed intake at Hope on Haven Hill in Rochester and have a bed waiting for me for a six-month residential program.”
Judge Ruoff noted the woman’s extensive criminal history, and made clear that he was disturbed when Cote referred to her daughter’s death simply as “the incident” at one point during her plea.
“I don’t feel bad for you,” he said. “These charges are very serious charges and from what I read in the affidavit and what the state outlined in its argument, it’s very serious conduct. It could be described as depraved conduct.”
According to investigators, Cote and Geremia drove to Lawrence on Nov. 15, 2020 with their two daughters and a friend, Dana Dolan, 25.
Having successfully traded an ATV for drugs, they got high together for several hours – at least three times in the cabin of the pick-up truck they traveled in, an affidavit reads. The trio admitted to staying at the Londonderry truck stop overnight.
Investigators say both children were present each time the drugs were used, sometimes on their mother’s lap or in car seats. The adults would sometimes fall asleep after using, leaving the girls unsupervised, police said.
On one occasion, they said Cote fell asleep while cutting heroin on a book.
According to a witness at the truck stop, on the morning of November 16, 2020 Geremia threw what looked like a book or a binder into the woods before performing CPR on a distressed girl in the driver’s seat of the truck.
At one point, he stopped CPR to smoke a cigarette, the witness said. Concerned that no one had dialed 911, the witness said he called for help himself.
Others told police about Cote’s presence at the frantic scene, and that she was holding another child as she walked toward a gas station across the street.
Investigators said they eventually located her in that area, and upon returning to the store’s restroom later, they found a child’s size winter vest covered in powder – later confirmed as fentanyl – in a trash can.
Cote and Geremia are said to have changed their accounts of what happened several times during questioning from police. At some points they each denied the presence of any drugs, only to later point at Dolan, who they said was recently released from jail and possibly in possession of illegal substances.
Geremia said he woke up to his youngest girl unresponsive in the front seat with her face down on the middle seat and her legs hanging toward the floor of the truck. He claimed to have immediately turned her over, began CPR and yelled for someone to call 911.
After speaking with Cote, detectives said they were told she woke up to Geremia panicking because of their unconscious child. She had no idea what happened, she told police.
In a separate police interview, Dolan described how Cote tried to administered Narcan — a drug that quickly reverses the effects of opioid overdoses — but may have done it wrong.
Nurses who later cared for the girl at the hospital reported she was “very dirty.” Her hair was in a ponytail with dirt or sand, they told police. Dirt was obvious under her fingernails and a bare left foot was also dirty. One nurse recalled a full diaper.
She told police about the nurses' cleanup efforts “out of respect for the little girl,” the affidavit reads.
During both hearings Wednesday, Judge Ruoff repeated “I’m not confident that there are any conditions I could impose that would assure the safety of children in the community or even the defendant’s own safety.”