Woman surrenders in 2009 death of granddaughter

Coroner said 14-month-old baby died of acute morphine poisoning

Woman surrenders in 2009 death of granddaughter

A woman has turned herself in to authorities on murder charges in the death of her granddaughter nearly three years ago.

Penny Kochel surrendered Thursday afternoon to law enforcement officers at District Justice Ann Young's office near Wernersville, Berks Co., said her attorney, James Polyak.

State police accuse Kochel, 51, of giving her 14-month-old granddaughter, Leanna McEntee, a fatal dose of morphine while babysitting the little girl and her brother in 2009.

Kochel's husband, Robert, found Leanna dead on the couple's bed inside their home at 6801 Penn Ave. in Lower Heidelberg Township early on the morning of May, 10, 2009, according to court documents.

Police and emergency medical crews responded to the home. According to affidavit of probable cause, one of the emergency medical technicians told police that, while Robert Kochel was talking about how he found his granddaughter's lifeless body, Penny Kochel yelled, "I did it!  I killed her!"

An autopsy the next day determined the baby died of acute morphine poisoning, said the coroner, who ruled the girl's death a homicide.

"Penny and her family are both shocked and saddened by police accusations that she caused the death of her granddaughter, Leanna McEntee, who she loved dearly," said Polyak. "The accusation that Penny murdered Leanna is false, deeply hurtful, and will be refuted by independent scientific evidence presented in court."

According to court documents, Kochel told police that she had been obtaining morphine from her brother, who was dying of cancer, and would take the tablets at his house, sometimes two or three at a time.

She also told police she took a morphine tablet after Leanna went to sleep on the night before she died. When investigators asked if she gave the baby a morphine pill, Kochel replied, "I know what the drug was. That would make her die. I know those pills are for pain. I know what they do. If knew if I gave her one of those pills, she would die."

During a subsequent search of Kochel's bedroom, police said they found a wooden box with marijuana paraphernalia and a blue glass pipe with suspected marijuana. They said they also found three hydroxyzine pills in a trash can.

Kochel is charged with 3rd degree murder, aggravated assault, drug delivery resulting in death, endangering the welfare of children and recklessly endangering another person, state police said.

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