Coroner: Johnstown baby died of starvation, dehydration after parents apparently overdosed

Johnstown police Capt. Chad Miller (left), Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan (center) and Cambria County Coroner Jeffrey Lees address the media on Friday, Dec. 23, 2016. Three bodies were found a day earlier in a home in the Kernville section of Johnstown, including a 5-month-old baby who authorities say starved to death after her parents overdosed.

Officials on Friday confirmed the community's worst fears about three deaths discovered Thursday in Johnstown's Kernville neighborhood.

A man and woman were found dead in their Kernville home as a result of likely heroin overdoses. Their 5-month-old daughter also died – from starvation and dehydration, officials said.

Cambria County Coroner Jeffrey Lees said Jason E. Chambers, 27, and Chelsea S. Cardaro, 19, had been dead for about a week when they were discovered Thursday.

The infant, Summer N. Chambers, had survived for several days after her parents died, Lees said, but was also deceased when police entered the home on the 700 block of Thomas Avenue.

Autopsies were performed Friday morning, which confirmed that the infant died from dehydration and starvation, Lees said.

Toxicology reports are pending for the the adults, who are believed to be the parents of the baby. Results from the toxicology report could take up to six to eight weeks, Lees said.

"Although it is not confirmed (as an overdose case), there was evidence of drugs at the scene," District Attorney Kelly Callihan said at a press conference Friday at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center.

Callihan believes that heroin was involved, but said the police are still investigating.

The district attorney noted that there was a prior history of drug abuse documented at the Thomas Avenue home.

Johnstown police Capt. Chad Miller said authorities were called to the home in November after Jason Chambers overdosed and had to be revived with Narcan.

A report was made after the overdose to Children and Youth Services, Callihan said.

“They did meet with the mother and the father with the child present at the residence,” she said.

“They checked out the house, and it was appropriate to a child living there. There was plenty of food and the child seemed well taken care of.”

Miller said: “It's an unfortunate incident where they both possibly overdosed at the same time – and being from out of town, not having anybody in town – it was too long for anybody to notice that they were missing.” 

Lees said Johnstown police were dispatched to the house at 3:57 p.m. Thursday after another individual had entered the home to check on the family.

Authorities found Jason Chambers on the first floor of the residence, Cardaro in a second-floor bathroom, and the infant in a bassinet in a second-floor bedroom.

Callihan believes that Jason Chambers and Cardaro died within minutes of each other.

“We think that because, if not, one or the other would have called for help,” Callihan said.

Officials said the family was last seen on Dec. 11, and that neighbors were under the impression that the family had taken a planned trip to New York, where Jason Chambers and Cardaro had lived previously.

Ronald Fisher is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @FisherSince_82.

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