SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — A Van Buren County man charged in connection to his 16-year-old son’s fatal drug overdose told a judge he is anxious to prove his innocence.
Gary Birkhead of Bangor appeared in court Wednesday where he was formally charged with second-degree child abuse and involuntary manslaughter in the death of 16-year-old Cole Birkhead. Gary Birkhead is accused of causing mental or physical harm by knowingly allowing his son to use illicit drugs over two years until his death in August 2017.
24 Hour News 8 has learned that Cole Birkhead started showing symptoms of the deadly overdose while he was in a vehicle with his father near Hartford. The teenager died at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan State Police say.
Troopers said they had been looking into suspicious details in the case for more than a year before arresting Gary Birkhead Tuesday.
Relatives of Cole Birkhead didn’t want to talk on camera Wednesday but his mother’s family issued the following statement:
“He was a great young athlete. Competitive in all sports. A prankster with a sense of humor. A loyal friend. Gone too soon. A child who did not deserve to die. Loved and missed terribly by his family and friends,” the family of Nicole Nevins said.
— Target 8 Reporter Susan Samples contributed to this report.
***CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Cole Birkhead’s deadly overdose happened in Coloma. We regret this error, which has since been corrected.***