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Initial toxicology proved inconclusive on child who said she ate methamphetamine

Charges against a Washington father who was suspected of letting his 6-year-old daughter eat a crystal of methamphetamine were reduced because of inconclusive toxicology reports, officials said Wednesday.

Elijah Benyshua Benbow, 28, of Seattle, was arraigned in Jackson County Circuit Court Tuesday on a felony charge of possession of methamphetamine and misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence of intoxicants, reckless endangering and endangering the welfare of a minor.

Benbow was arrested Monday on additional felony charges, including first-degree child neglect and delivery of methamphetamine, but those charges weren't filed in court, according to court records.

Preliminary toxicology tests on Benbow's daughter — taken to an area hospital after she informed a Jackson County deputy that she had ingested methamphetamine — were inconclusive for the drug. The results of more detailed screening tests will not be available for days, if not weeks, said Capt. Monte Holloway of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.

"At this point we don't know, definitively, what the child ingested," Holloway said. "But we're working on it."

Prosecutor Nick Geil said Wednesday that he does not dispute the report of the deputy on scene. But absent a positive toxicology report that would prove the child had ingested methamphetamine, the current evidence will not support delivery charges, which linkdirectly to first-degree child neglect, he said.

"We filed the charges that we believe the evidence will support given the serious nature of what happened," Geil said.

Under Oregon law, delivery of methamphetamine is a Class A felony if the drug is given or sold to a person younger than 18. Oregon Revised Statutes also details penalties for felony child neglect charges if they are related to methamphetamine delivery. The case began Monday evening when several callers reported a man acting suspiciously at around 5:30 p.m. in the parking lot of the Ashland Burger King. A deputy went to check it out, but the man already had headed north on Interstate 5 in a silver, 2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser with Washington plates.

Benbow was stopped for speeding at Exit 48 near Rogue River. His 6-year-old daughter was sitting in the backseat.

Benbow reportedly was shaking badly, fidgeting and could not stop moving, leading the deputy to suspect he was under the influence of drugs. Benbow denied any use of intoxicants, the Sheriff's Department said.

Benbow's daughter told the deputy she'd eaten something from a small container that looked like a "rock" and was "sort of gray" in color. A search of the car revealed 5.37 grams of methamphetamine, according to the Sheriff's Department.

The daughter identified the methamphetamine found in a baggy as the same substance she had eaten, sheriff's spokeswoman Andrea Carlson said.

The child said she had a stomach ache, but didn't show signs of meth intoxication, Carlson said. The girl was taken to an area hospital for treatment, but has since been released and placed in foster care, Carlson said.

Benbow failed field sobriety tests and was taken to the Jackson County Jail. He was later released. Judge Benjamin Bloom on Tuesday barred Benbow from having contact with the girl without the approval of child welfare caseworkers.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.