Man charged in drug overdose death of his son

Posted at 12:53 PM, Mar 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-20 21:14:28-04

PAW PAW, Mich. — A Van Buren County man has been charged in the death of his son, who died of a drug overdose in 2017.

Gary Birkhead, 48, was arrested Tuesday and arraigned Wednesday on charges of homicide/involuntary manslaughter and second-degree child abuse in relation to the death of his 16-year-old son, Cole Birkhead.

"I would just like to say that I’m not guilty of this," Birkhead said during his video arraignment at the 7th District Court in South Haven. "I’m anxious to prove my innocence."

Authorities said Gary was driving Aug. 10, 2017 on eastbound I-94 near the Hartford exit when his son began to overdose.

Cole was taken to Bronson Methodist Hospital, where he died three days later.

A medical examiner determined his death was caused by the toxic effects of fentanyl and cocaine metabolite.

In a probable cause hearing, investigators said Gary Birkhead had supplied and used cocaine, heroin and meth with his son on various occasions. It is also alleged he neglected to seek help for his son's drug addiction after being advised by an emergency room doctor to do so.

Bond was set at $1,000,000 and Gary is expected to return to court on April 10 for his preliminary hearing. He's looking at 25 years in prison if he's found guilty of the charges.

"I just got remarried and got a job," Gary stated in court. "I’m ready to face this and go forward with life."