Mother of St. Paul child who overdosed on fentanyl pleads guilty to manslaughter charge

A 28-year-old woman has pleaded guilty to a charge filed in connection with the fentanyl overdose and death of her seven-year-old child.

Courd records show Shauntaija Jannell Travis, of St. Paul, pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree manslaughter by culpable negligence and creating unreasonable risk during a hearing on Friday afternoon. In exchange, an agreement calls for the second count of second-degree manslaughter to be dismissed.

A criminal complaint states Travis called police after she found 7-year-old Za’Maiya Travis unresponsive on the morning of March 31. Medics pronounced Za’Maiya dead shortly after arriving, and officials said the death was a result of fentanyl toxicity. Shauntaija was charged in June.

Court records indicate the girl had reported abuse to staff at her St. Paul elementary school months before she died, but staff members, who are mandatory reporters, did not report the incident until two weeks after her death.

RELATED: Complaint: St. Paul child who died of fentanyl overdose had reported abuse to school staff

Za’Maiya Travis (Courtesy: Family friend)

Travis and her boyfriend told law enforcement the three of them had gone to bed the night before Za’Mayia died around 11:30 p.m., and Travis’ boyfriend said the girl was alive when he woke up around 2 a.m. to smoke a cigarette.

Inside the home, law enforcement found multiple straws with white powder, a baggie of suspected crumbs of narcotics, cash with white residue, and a blue M30 pill.

Travis told officials she had been prescribed Percocet for seizures, but when the doctor took her off the medication, she wasn’t given anything to wean off, so she purchased drugs from the street to avoid drug sickness.

While Travis maintained she kept her drugs where her daughter couldn’t find them, she admitted she wasn’t aware she still had the blue pill. When police questioned Travis, she said there was a 75% chance her child had gotten into her drugs.

Court documents state Za’Maiya told a child protection worker in March that Travis took “medicine” by mouth and would crush up blue stuff into a powder before “sniffing” it. Other instances of neglect were also noted in the child protection worker’s report.

On April 14, two weeks after Za’Maiya’s death, a suspected child maltreatment report from Benjamin E. Mays School, where she was a student, showed Za’Maiya had approached staff about a burn on her upper chest in “late fall of 2022,” according to the complaint.

Za’Maiya said her mother had inflicted the burn, and staff concluded the injury wasn’t recent. However, documents show staff didn’t come forward to the authorities about the incident until after Za’Maiya’s death.

“There is no indication that staff, who are mandated reporters, contacted anyone about the incident at the time they learned of it. Staff only documented the incident after death,” the complaint states.

The complaint also notes that the “school district refused to allow investigators to speak with staff” about the student.

A relative of the family explained to police on the case that she was concerned about Travis’ daughter’s living situation. She said the child “smelled bad,” didn’t have clean clothes, and complained of hunger when she saw her.

Travis’ sentencing has been scheduled for March 22.