Fayette County

Judge says vinegar didn’t kill 5-year-old, sentences mother to probation

Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine
Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine Lexington Herald-Leader

A Lexington mother originally accused of reckless homicide in the 2011 death of her 5-year-old son after he consumed vinegar was sentenced to six months of supervised probation Friday on a misdemeanor abuse charge.

Judge Pamela Goodwine said that after considering the facts and science of the case, she determined that the death of Joseph Maoping Adams was “a tragic accident.” She also said she believed his mother, Deah Adams, was “truly, truly, truly sorry.” She pleaded guilty to the reduced charge.

“Sending you to jail would simply ruin the lives of three more children,” Goodwine said to the mother of four.

Joseph died Dec. 3 at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital. He had Hirschsprung's disease, which affects the colon and requires a restricted diet. Adams said she gave him the 2.5 cups of vinegar to try to induce vomiting after drinking milk and eating butter made him sick.

About two months after the boy’s death, Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn announced the boy’s death was ruled a homicide because he was given a “lethal” dose of vinegar. Pathologist Cristin Rolf, who performed the autopsy on Joseph, testified that he died from a lethal amount of vinegar administered by his parents .

On Friday, Goodwine said the science that was presented to her in several hearings indicated that was not the case.

“Ingesting vinegar does not cause death and cannot cause death,” she said.

“It’s time to heal ... you have to forgive yourself,” Goodwine told Adams. “Nothing that is said or done here will bring Joseph back.”

More than 40 people were in the courtroom Friday afternoon to support Adams. Before that, about 125 people wrote letters of support to be presented to the judge, her defense attorney Matt Boyd said.

“The fact of the matter is that when you have that many people fill a courtroom it makes it a little easier for a judge to see what type of person you are,” Boyd said. “She’s been that person the whole time, she’s a good lady who went through a really, really tragic event.”

Adams told Goodwine she wanted to go home and grieve in a way she hasn’t been able to in the years since Joseph’s death because of the scrutiny she and her family have been under.

“We all mourn the loss of Joseph,” Boyd said. “That doesn’t change and I know that hopefully now they can heal, that’s all we want.”