Police: Columbus man held on $1M bond in son’s fentanyl-related death

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COLUMBUS, Ind. – A Columbus man is being held on a $1 million bond after being arrested in connection with the death of his son.

Investigators said the boy died from fentanyl exposure.

Officers took Travis Tuttle into custody Monday. He’s being held at the Bartholomew County Jail on charges of neglect of a dependent resulting in death and possession of a narcotic drug.

The arrest stems from the March 21, 2021, death of Tuttle’s son, 8-year-old Lealyn Tuttle. Columbus police were called to a home in the 4300 block of Serenity Drive for an unresponsive child. They arrived to find the 8-year-old dead.

Lealyn had been visiting his father for spring break, according to court documents.

Tuttle told investigators he went to bed around 1 a.m. and his son was on the couch because he liked to sleep in the living room. Tuttle said he got a drink of water around 3 a.m. and his son appeared to be sleeping on the couch. Tuttle said he didn’t leave his bedroom until around 11 a.m., when he found the 8-year-old unresponsive.

He said the boy “had foam coming from his mouth and had vomited on himself,” according to court documents.

Investigators located foil and white powder residue on the coffee table in the living room. They also found foil and similar residue on a dresser in Tuttle’s bedroom.

Court records make it appear the death was accidental, but still criminal.

Police discovered a video taken on March 20 that showed Lealyn with “foil on his upper and lower teeth and gums” to make it look like he had “grills” (dental jewelry) in his mouth.

“It just is sad. The bottom line is there’s an 8-year-old boy that should be alive today,” said Columbus police Lt. Matthew Harris.

It took months for the completion of drug analysis, with results unavailable until Nov. 8. Residue on the foil found in the living room tested positive for fentanyl and diphenhydramine. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid known for its potency. Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine commonly found in allergy medications.

An autopsy showed Lealyn died from acute fentanyl and diphenhydramine intoxication. Investigators believe he ingested the drugs through the foil and eventually arrested Tuttle as a result of their months-long investigation.

“If you have that type of drug, first of all it’s illegal. Second, you can’t have it anywhere out where a kid could harm themselves,” said DEA assistant special agent Mike Gannon.

Gannon says just 2 milligrams of fentanyl can be deadly because the drug is 50 times more potent than heroin.

“Just enough to put on the tip of a pencil is considered a lethal dose of fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and one of the most lethal drugs out there,” said Gannon.

In Marion County this year, the DEA reports there have been over 600 fatal drug overdoses and the vast majority are fentanyl related.

Columbus police insist those dangers are why a joint task force with Columbus police and Bartholomew County remains active, trying to take fentanyl, meth and heroin off the streets and save lives.

“We certainly want anyone with info on drugs being brought in Columbus to contact law enforcement, but regardless we have a little boy that is sadly no longer with us,” said Harris.

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