One sentenced for endangering children with access to heroin, another awaits trial

Here’s what the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office does

The Whatcom County Sheriff's Office enforces the law in the unincorporated areas of Whatcom County as well as on the county's waterways.
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The Whatcom County Sheriff's Office enforces the law in the unincorporated areas of Whatcom County as well as on the county's waterways.

One of two people who were arrested for allegedly endangering two minor children by having them in a house in the Alderwood neighborhood where they were within reach of heroin and other drugs will serve jail time, while the other awaits trial.

Taylor Martin Bessette, 27, was sentenced to four months in jail with a year of probation June 13 for felony unlawful possession of a controlled substance, and reckless endangerment, a gross misdemeanor. Bessette can serve his jail sentence on in- or out-of-custody work crews, work release or electronic home detention if eligible and approved, according to Whatcom County Superior Court records. He must also complete a drug and alcohol evaluation and treatment as part of his sentencing.

Samantha Elaine Stewart, 27, was arrested with Bessette and was charged with felony endangerment with a controlled substance, felony unlawful possession of a controlled substance and reckless endangerment, a gross misdemeanor. Stewart’s trial is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 26.

Shortly after 10:30 a.m. on April 14, Whatcom County Sheriff’s deputies were called to the 3400 block of Alderwood Avenue, just outside city limits, for a welfare check. A family member said she was concerned about two children in the home — ages 1 and 9 — because Bessette and Stewart allegedly do drugs around them, according to court records.

One of the deputies pounded on the door for 10 minutes before Stewart opened an upstairs window and said she would come down. It took her another five minutes to open the door, records state. A deputy said her pupils were pinpoint, her speech was slurred and she appeared under the influence of narcotics, records show.

When deputies entered the home to check on the children, they found a “cooking spoon” with heroin residue sitting on the kitchen table, accessible for the children to reach, court records show. Deputies also observed five marijuana bongs, and a separate bong that field-tested positive for methamphetamine, court records state.

The 9-year-old child was found upstairs “curled up in the fetal position and appeared to frightened,” court records state. The boy told deputies he last ate the day before, and that he had been around when Bessette and Stewart smoked out of the bongs, according to court records.

The 1-year-old baby was found in a bedroom, without a crib to sleep in, and was within inches of a cell phone that had heroin on it, records show. Stewart and Bessette both denied it was theirs, and Stewart later allegedly tried to wipe away the evidence before deputies stopped her, according to court records.

Three other people who have a history with drugs were located in the house, but Bessette and Stewart said they didn’t know them, except for one, and weren’t sure who let them in, court records state.

Reporter Denver Pratt joined The Bellingham Herald in 2017 and covers courts and criminal and social justice. She has worked in Montana, Florida and Virginia.