A 30-year-old woman who worked with infants at a Missoula Family YMCA child care facility has been charged with felonies after allegations she was smoking methamphetamine at work, as well as the discovery of a “drug den” in a cabinet at the center.
Autumn Heinz made her first court appearance Thursday on felony counts of endangering the welfare of a child, drug possession and criminal mischief. She remains in jail on a $30,000 bail.
The Missoula YMCA announced Wednesday morning that its Learning Center on Palmer Street would be closed for the rest of the week after Heinz’s arrest, and that it is working with other agencies to determine what steps must be taken to reopen.
Charging documents filed against Heinz said a professional drug cleanup firm found meth residue in every room of the facility.
According to the affidavit filed with her charges, the YMCA contacted police Tuesday after another employee told her boss that they saw Heinz hiding in what was described as a “drug den” in a cabinet in the laundry room of the Learning Center. The employee also reported finding a case with a glass pipe and lighters in the area.
Heinz worked for the Learning Center for three years in the infant section, handling babies from 6 weeks to 18 months old.
A Missoula police officer found a double cabinet under a shelf in the laundry room that had been cleared out on the inside. A piece of cloth was hung inside in what appeared to be an attempt to stop fumes from escaping the cabinet, and a system of locking the cabinet from the inside had been installed, court records said.
The officer also located a case containing a glass pipe and a tube of crystalline substance that tested positive for methamphetamine.
In an interview with police, Heinz allegedly said she built the cabinet three weeks ago. She also told police she had been a client of a methadone clinic since 2013 after using heroin, but stopped going at some point in the last two years because she didn’t need it anymore, court records said.
When asked about the case and the drugs that the officer found, Heinz allegedly refused to discuss them and requested an attorney.
A professional testing firm found meth residue on the surfaces of the cabinet, as well as on the vent fan in the bathroom.
“Because this was done, the meth fumes appear to have permeated the whole Learning Center,” charging documents said.
The cleaning firm later told police that every room had tested positive for meth, including the infant room, and estimated cleanup costs could total more than $80,000.
Heather Foster, interim executive director of the Missoula Family YMCA, sent out a news release Thursday evening saying that most of the test samples from the Learning Center were sent to a lab in Salt Lake City. Contrary to some reports, she wrote, the full extent of the contamination is unknown.
Full tests results are expected by Friday, Foster wrote.
A letter from the company that collected the samples included with Foster's release said five of the 25 samples collected were tested for instantaneous results, and that those five all showed evidence of contamination.