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Chester County authorities charge parents in drug-related death of 8-year-old; father already awaiting trial in another overdose death

WEST CHESTER — The death of an 8-year-old Chester County boy last year has been tied by authorities to the drug-related activities of his parents, including the father who is already awaiting trial on charges that his trafficking in “Bad Bunny” fentanyl-laced heroin led to the overdose death of a Phoenixville man.

Chester County Detectives and Coatesville Police on Monday filed charges of third-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault of a child, endangering the welfare of children and reckless endangerment against Mousa Hawa and Holly Marie Back, the parents of young Hunter Hawa, who died in July 2023 of what the Chester County Coroner’s Office said was fentanyl, morphine, and cocaine intoxication.

Back was arraigned by Magisterial District Judge Gregory Hines of Coatesville and held on $1 million bail. Hawa was not immediately arraigned, as he is currently being held in Chester County Prison on drug delivery resulting in death charges stemming from a 2023 fatal overdose.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 12.

The death of Hunter Hawa was announced by his parents in July 2023 on a “GoFundMe” page on which Hawa asked for donations from the public to help Back with funeral expenses.

“My name is Mousa Hawa I am asking for help to cover cost for my son Hunter Hawa,” the posting read. “He passed suddenly 7/26/2023 we are having him cremated and then we will have a service for him when we figure everything out date wise we will post it

“It’s just really hard we loved our son with all of our hearts and he was loved by everyone he met I really hate to ask for help but sometimes u have to out (sic) ur hand out and ask for someone to help,” the message read. “We are just lost and could use a hand if not we understand times are hard but if there is anything you can help with it will be greatly appreciated.”

The couple collected $895 out of a goal of $2,500 before donations ceased.

But in a criminal complaint, the lead investigators in the case — Chester County Detective Jonathan Shave and Coatesville Cpl. Shawn Dowd, both veteran child abuse investigators — said that Hunter Hawa had in fact died because of the reckless conduct of his parents, both of whom were users of illegal narcotics including heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine. Their lack of responsible supervision, the investigators indicated, led the child to ingest the same drugs they were using until they killed him.

“The victim child’s toxicology results indicate an environment where the victim child was repeatedly administered or given access to fentanyl and was administered or accessed cocaine,” their detailed, 12-page arrest affidavit states. To ward off the child’s possible use of the drugs in their home, they simply told him it was “medicine” and that he should not touch it.

“The defendants knew and acknowledged the danger their actions posed to the victim child, going so far as to specifically advise the victim child of the danger of their actions,” the affidavit states. Even though they had opportunities to remove Hunter from the home and the dangerous drugs, they instead “chose to place their young child in a situation in which death or serious bodily injury was an almost guaranteed result.”

The third-degree murder and assault charges are both first-degree felonies punishable by up to 40 years in state prison. The involuntary manslaughter charge is a second-degree felony, which carries a maximum term of 10 years.

In Hawa’s other case, he is charged with drug delivery resulting in death, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, and possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, as well as related charges, in the March 2023 fatal overdose of a 32-year-old Phoenixville man, Tyler Stout. Hawa was charged in January after a lengthy investigation.

According to Detective Thomas P. Hyland Jr., a drug trafficking expert with the D.A.’s Drug Task Force Unit, Stout’s lifeless body was found at an apartment on Gay Street in the borough on March 27, 2023. Police were able to gather evidence in the apartment, including Stout’s cell phone, that led them to a woman who had apparently been Stout’s contact to get heroin, Karen Tucker of Coatesville.

When Hyland contacted Tucker, she told him that she had sold fentanyl-laced heroin stamped “Bad Bunny” the evening prior to Stout’s death. She also told him that Hawa had been the local supplier of the “Bad Bunny” heroin in Coatesville and the surrounding area in the months prior.

Drug traffickers will routinely stamp the small bags that heroin or other drugs come in that they sell to identify it to local dealers as well as customers who want similar drugs.

According to Hyland in his affidavit, other law enforcement agencies had reported seeing the “Bad Bunny” heroin bags in their cases. In fact, in July 2023, Coatesville police and the county detectives seized several “Bad Bunny” stamped bags from Hawa’s apartment while they were investigating what he said was a fatal overdose. That time frame is consistent with the death of Hunter Hawa.

The two bags of “Bad Bunny” taken from Hawa’s apartment showed the presence of fentanyl and butyryl fentanyl, another synthetic opioid.

In November 2023, Tucker agreed to cooperate with the investigators in the case and then made consecutive controlled purchases of heroin from Hawa in December 2023. Police arrested Hawa in the city on his way to a third controlled sale of heroin to Tucker.

After his arrest, Hawa allegedly told Hyland and fellow county detective Oscar Rosado that he had sold the “Bad Bunny” heroin in the area for the last year, but had switched to other brands, marked “Bread Gang” and “Michael Myers” because he believed they were of better quality than the “Bad Bunny” drugs.

The county coroner, Sophia Garcia-Jackson, said that toxicology tests during the autopsy of Stout showed that the amount of fentanyl in his body at the time of his death was a lethal dose and played a substantial factor in his death.

In the case involving Hunter Hawa’s death, the investigators stated that on Wednesday, July 26, 2023, around 2:30 a.m. Coatesville police were called to an apartment on East Lincoln Highway in the city for the report of an 8-year-old in cardiac arrest.

According to the affidavit, Officers Jennifer Schreiber and Sam Snyder arrived to find the child on the floor and Hawa frantically giving him CPR. The child did not have a pulse.

Inside, the officers noted the presence of baggies used in drug packaging scattered around the room and a bag with medication bottles on the floor. When the officers said that the room might be labeled a crime scene, Hawa became belligerent and told the officers to leave the house. When Back told him she was going to the hospital with their son, Hawa allegedly refused, saying he wanted to watch what the police did and denied any responsibility for his son’s death. “He was more concerned about law enforcement searching his house than going to the hospital,” the investigators quoted an officer who spoke to Hawa and Back.

The child was pronounced dead at Chester County Hospital at 3:32 a.m.

At the hospital and in subsequent interviews with investigators from county detectives and city police, Hawa and Back gave inconsistent stories about the events leading up to Hunter Hawa’s collapse, including what he had eaten that night. They said he had complained of a headache and had been allowed to fall asleep in a reclining chair around 12:30 a.m. Two hours later, he was found off the chair.

Back at first denied using drugs, but later acknowledged that she and Hawa both were drug users. She said, however, that her son wouldn’t have gotten into the drugs they used. Hawa said the same thing, telling the child that the drugs were “daddy’s medicine and it will kill you.”

However, the autopsy results and a report from a forensic toxicologist showed that the child’s blood contained cocaine and fentanyl. His urine showed traces of opioids.

In addition to the information about the cause of Hunter’s death, the affidavit contains a history of troublesome incidents involving the child and his parents from 2016 until a few months before he died. He had developmental problems that were not fully addressed by his parents, but which seemed to improve when he was briefly placed with other family members under the auspices of the county Department of Children, Youth and Families.

The affidavit recounts an incident in 2019 in which Back was found unconscious in a car suffering from an apparent drug overdose, which she subsequently denied.  A CYF caseworker also reported seeing Hawa “nod off” during an interview in which he had to take “medication” for anxiety.

The child’s maternal grandmother told the investigators that one of the last times she saw him was at Easter dinner in 2023. The boy told her then that he did not want to go home with Hawa and Back, and that Hawa “kept hitting him on his head. The grandmother said he did not look like he was being taken care of and that he was dressed inappropriately for the weather.

“His hair was not brushed, and he did not look good,” the affidavit quoted the grandmother as saying. “The victim child told her … that he hated his parents.”

Hawa, 31, and Back, 40, have a history of petty crimes, including traffic offenses, retail theft and DUI, but Hawa played a small role in a widely reported scandal involving the Coatesville Area School District a decade ago.

In September 2013, Mousa Hawa’s father, Abdallah Hawa, was one of two employees of the school district who brought evidence of racist and sexist emails exchanged between then-Superintendent Richard Como and athletic director James Donato. The outcry that surrounded the emails led to the pair’s resignation and the eventual arrest of Como and Donato on theft charges. Como ended up spending three months in Chester County Prison.

However, the investigation into practices at the district by a county grand jury led to information about improper nepotism practices within the schools that involved Abdallah Hawa himself and his son, Mousa.

According to the grand jury’s report, Mousa Hawa was an employee at the district from 2005 through his resignation in 2009. Mousa Hawa was initially hired as a custodian but then became a security guard.

On January 25, 2007, Abdallah Hawa recommended that Mousa be transferred from his position as a security guard to that of a technology associate at Friendship Elementary School. The move was approved by the school board and gave Mousa Hawa a small raise and brought him under the supervision of his own father. Because Abdallah Hawa both supervised his own son and wrote his evaluations in 2008 and 2009, this was a violation of the nepotism policy.

Mousa transferred positions again in June of 2008, while he had pending criminal charges for resisting arrest, public drunkenness, and vandalism. Mousa pled guilty to misdemeanor resisting arrest in August of 2008. There is no record of any adverse impact on Mousa’s employment. Instead, he was given a raise in July of 2009.

Mousa Hawa resigned for “personal reasons” in August of 2009.

To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.

Source: Berkshire mont

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