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

Mother charged with young daughter’s death

Mother charged with young daughter's death

Months before a girl died of a fentanyl overdose, she had reported to staff at her St. Paul elementary school that her mother had burned her. Court records allege those staff members, who are mandatory reporters, didn’t flag the incident until two weeks after the girl’s death.

On Monday, prosecutors charged the girl’s mother, 27-year-old Shauntaija Travis, with two separate counts of second-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of her daughter, who was born in 2015.

According to a criminal complaint, Travis found her daughter unresponsive when she went to wake her up for school the morning of March 31. Medics pronounced her dead shortly after arriving.

A family friend and court records identified the deceased as 7-year-old Za’Maiya Travis.

Za’Maiya Travis (courtesy: family friend)

Investigators found evidence of drugs throughout Travis’ home, including a baggie with “suspected crumbs of narcotics,” along with straws that contained white residue that tested positive for cocaine, according to court records. A blue M30 pill inside her purse contained fentanyl and the chemical 4-ANPP, a precursor to fentanyl.

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.

Records show Travis was booked into Ramsey County jail Monday afternoon.

Missed warnings

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 that the injury was not recent. But despite being mandatory reporters, documents show staff didn’t come forward to the authorities about the incident.

“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.

St. Paul Public Schools declined to comment for this story, citing “pending legal matters.”

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.

The woman reported the alleged poor home situation to staff at Benjamin E. Mays and asked to take Za’Maiya home. Staff refused, as Travis hadn’t authorized that family member to pick her up or receive any information about the child.

Per the school’s suggestion, the family member filed a report with Child Protective Services on March 9.

Interviews with Za’Maiya on March 13 and 14 made it clear she was aware of her mother’s drug use, making references to “the blue stuff” and “sniffing,” according to the complaint.

Child protection workers tried to make arrangements to transfer custody of Za’Maiya to the concerned family member as soon as possible, but Travis “wanted a few more days with the girl,” so the transfer was delayed to April 5.

The relative told investigators she was “frustrated that she reached out trying to help, but she could not get anyone to help her.”