September 24, 2023

TOMS RIVER – It should have been a wakeup call for Natalie Sabie when, under the influence of drugs, she passed out in her car in 2015, with a needle in close reach of her young son, a judge said Friday.

But, it wasn’t.

Nor was an event in April 2022, when Sabie was arrested in Stafford for driving under the influence of fentanyl while her two other children, then 1 and 2 years old, were passengers, Superior Court Guy P. Ryan said.

Just five months later, the 2-year-old boy was dead, having ingested the contents of one of 60 wax folds of drugs that Sabie left in the bedroom she shared with her two youngest children, an assistant prosecutor said.

Natalie Sabie is shown during her sentencing before Superior Court Judge Guy P. Ryan at the Ocean County Courthouse in Toms River Friday, September 8, 2023. She was sentenced to ten years in prison as a result of her guilty plea to Aggravated Manslaughter in connection with the death of her two year-old son in Lacey Township.

Natalie Sabie is shown during her sentencing before Superior Court Judge Guy P. Ryan at the Ocean County Courthouse in Toms River Friday, September 8, 2023. She was sentenced to ten years in prison as a result of her guilty plea to Aggravated Manslaughter in connection with the death of her two year-old son in Lacey Township.

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An autopsy revealed a large amount of fentanyl in the dead child’s blood and urine, as well as the presence of a veterinary sedative, said Kimberly Carr, an assistant Ocean County prosecutor.

While Sabie’s defense attorneys, Thomas Martin and Clifford Yannone, said their client struggled with drug addiction most of her life, the judge and prosecutor said she squandered numerous opportunities to get help for her addiction — assistance that was extended at taxpayers’ expense.

Ryan on Friday sentenced Sabie, 35, of Lacey, to 10 years in prison for the aggravated manslaughter of her son. He imposed a consecutive five-year sentence on her — meaning it would not start until the previous sentence is done — for endangering the welfare of her children, stemming from the April 2022 arrest. In doing so, the judge was abiding by terms of a plea agreement the defendant’s attorneys reached with the prosecutor.

Giving credit to Sabie’s defense attorneys for the deal, Ryan said Sabie did not deserve it.

The punishment handed down is “a much more favorable sentence than this defendant really deserves,” the judge said.

Sabie has to serve 85% of the 10-year prison term, under the state’s No Early Release Act, before she can be considered for parole and begin serving the second prison term.

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Superior Court Judge Guy P. Ryan is shown during the sentencing for Natalie Sabie at the Ocean County Courthouse in Toms River Friday, September 8, 2023. She was sentenced to ten years in prison as a result of her guilty plea to Aggravated Manslaughter in connection with the death of her two year-old son in Lacey Township.

Superior Court Judge Guy P. Ryan is shown during the sentencing for Natalie Sabie at the Ocean County Courthouse in Toms River Friday, September 8, 2023. She was sentenced to ten years in prison as a result of her guilty plea to Aggravated Manslaughter in connection with the death of her two year-old son in Lacey Township.

Not the only one

She is the second mother in the Shore area in as many days to be sentenced to prison for causing a toddler’s death by leaving illegal drugs within their reach.

On Thursday, Quanique Smith, 27, of Asbury Park, was sentenced in Superior Court in Monmouth County to eight years in prison for the aggravated manslaughter of her 2-year-old son. The child died in January after ingesting fentanyl that Smith left within his reach.

‘Heroin all over the place’: Asbury Park mom gets prison for death of her toddler

Smith also benefited from a plea agreement, something Superior Court Judge Marc C. Lemiuex said he struggled with in abiding by its terms.

Aggravated manslaughter carries a term of imprisonment of 10 to 30 years, but Smith’s plea agreement called for a more lenient sentence.

Ryan, in sentencing Sabie, said “she’s got a remarkable criminal record for someone who is only 35 years of age.”

That includes a juvenile record, 21 disorderly persons convictions and 12 convictions for indictable offenses prior to the two crimes she was sentenced for on Friday, Ryan said.

Ocean County Assistant Prosecutor Kimberly Carr speaks during the sentencing for Natalie Sabie before Superior Court Judge Guy P. Ryan at the Ocean County Courthouse in Toms River Friday, September 8, 2023. Sabie was sentenced to ten years in prison as a result of her guilty plea to Aggravated Manslaughter in connection with the death of her two year-old son in Lacey Township.

Ocean County Assistant Prosecutor Kimberly Carr speaks during the sentencing for Natalie Sabie before Superior Court Judge Guy P. Ryan at the Ocean County Courthouse in Toms River Friday, September 8, 2023. Sabie was sentenced to ten years in prison as a result of her guilty plea to Aggravated Manslaughter in connection with the death of her two year-old son in Lacey Township.

Carr said many of the prior convictions were for shoplifting and drugs, but included a child endangerment conviction in 2015, She described the circumstances of the earlier endangerment case.

“The defendant was under the influence, passed out in a car, with her son in the car and a needle within reach of him,” Carr said.

That conviction was “particularly troubling,” Ryan said.

“If that wasn’t the wakeup call that was needed to protect the children and to save his life, then nothing was,” the judge said.

“If there needed to be a second wakeup call with respect to this defendant’s manner of caring for her children, it certainly should have been in April of 2022,” Ryan said, referring to Sabie’s arrest in Stafford.

Ryan and Carr noted that Sabie twice flunked out of recovery court — a program in which felons are given the opportunity to avoid prison if they successfully complete substance abuse treatment.

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‘No longer get to use that as an excuse’

Sabie, addressing the court, offered an apology but said she “was scared to ask for help.”

Carr countered that Sabie was given “numerous opportunities at treatment and she never took advantage of it.”

When an addict is not willing to change, “they no longer get to use that as an excuse,” Carr said.

The assistant prosecutor noted that Sabie’s response to her son’s death “was to relapse and get pregnant with another child.”

Ryan said that child was born eight weeks ago, while Sabie was incarcerated. Her other children are now 12 and 2, the judge said.

Carl Henderson Jr. speaks during the sentencing for Natalie Sabie before Superior Court Judge Guy P. Ryan at the Ocean County Courthouse in Toms River Friday, September 8, 2023. Sabie was sentenced to ten years in prison as a result of her guilty plea to Aggravated Manslaughter in connection with the death of the two year-old son they parented.

Carl Henderson Jr. speaks during the sentencing for Natalie Sabie before Superior Court Judge Guy P. Ryan at the Ocean County Courthouse in Toms River Friday, September 8, 2023. Sabie was sentenced to ten years in prison as a result of her guilty plea to Aggravated Manslaughter in connection with the death of the two year-old son they parented.

The victim’s father, Carl Henderson Jr., said Sabie has another side to her, that of a mother who took her children on outings and put smiles on their faces.

“Nothing on this earth trumps the pain of burying a 2-year-old son,” Henderson told the judge. “We as a family know that this was an accident and a really horrible one, but an accident just the same.”

Ryan noted that Sabie pleaded guilty to causing her child’s death while acting reckless, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.

“That’s not negligence, that’s not careless, that’s not an accident,” the judge said.

He said Henderson is “facing sentencing on some very serious matters in federal court,” without specifying what those crimes are.

Ryan said the plea agreement with Sabie contains alternate arrangements for her children’s care, should Henderson also be sent to prison.

Kathleen Hopkins, a reporter in New Jersey since 1985, covers crime, court cases, legal issues and just about every major murder trial to hit Monmouth and Ocean counties. Contact her at khopkins@app.com

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Lacey mom who drove high with babies gets prison for son’s drug death

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