Mom charged after toddler dies of morphine overdose in St. Louis County

A woman has been charged with involuntary manslaughter after her 19-month-old son died of a morphine overdose.

Prenise Payne, 22, is being held on $150,000 cash-only bail in the death of her son. She is charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter.

The boy, Jace Lee Echoles, died Dec. 2 while in Payne’s care. He had been found unresponsive in Payne’s bed.

An autopsy showed that Jace “had been given a fatal dose of morphine,” and charges say Payne recklessly caused the boy’s death “by causing him to ingest a fatal dose of morphine,” according to court documents. Police said they are still investigating exactly how the drug ended up in Jace’s system.

Payne was arrested Friday and charged on Saturday.

Payne’s father, Parnell Payne, 57, said the morphine belonged to him and he blamed himself, but did not say how the boy ingested itmorphine.

He did defend his daughter, who he said had recently moved in with him when Jace died.

“She would never do something like that,” he said of his daughter.

Jace’s father could not be reached for comment.

On Prenise Payne’s Facebook page, she says she graduated from Hazelwood East High School and was studying nursing at Maryville University. She has dozens of pictures of her son. In one, he poses in an Elmo jacket and — on the day after his death — Payne wrote this caption: “Gone but never forgotten!! Bye Baby.”

Just last week, she put several in an album marked “Memories of Jace,” including one of him in a stroller where she wrote, “Oh that smile…. PURE JOY!!!”