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Overdose death of 7-month-old girl in SLO County shows dangers of fentanyl, authorities say

Benjamin Purper
Sheriff Ian Parkinson announces the charges at a Monday press conference.

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson and District Attorney Dan Dow announced three arrests May 17 in connection with the death of 7-month-old Lilith Luhm who they said ingested fentanyl and methamphetamine.

At a Monday press conference in San Luis Obispo, Parkinson announced his department arrested Shawn Luhm and his wife Kayla Luhm for “willful cruelty to a child with possible injury or death.”

They also arrested Melissa Currie of Atascadero as an accessory for willful cruelty to a child.

Parkinson said Lilith Luhm’s death highlights a growing problem of fentanyl overdoses in the county.

“Locally in 2019, we had 53 drug overdose deaths in San Luis County, 11 of which had fentanyl in their systems,” Parkinson said. “In 2020, just a year later, we had 88 drug-related deaths, of which 34 had fentanyl in their system.”

District Attorney Dan Dow said his office has filed felony child abuse charges against the Luhms and Currie.

Dow called Lilith Luhm’s death “a tragedy that could have been prevented in our community.”

Benjamin Purper was News Director of KCBX from May of 2021 to September of 2023. He came from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
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