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My Reason

Otis Sorenson was born on Christmas Day, 2023, with fentanyl in his system. According to court documents, his mother also tested positive for fentanyl use and because of this the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (WA DCYF) decided that his father, Jordan Sorenson, despite his lengthy criminal record, history of drug use and unstable living conditions, was the safest option for the newborn baby.

Court documents state that Sorensen was living with another person when he was granted temporary custody. WA DCYF decided once Sorensen could provide a clean urine analysis, he could have baby Otis in his care without supervision from the roommate. On January 8, 2023, his test came back clean. Court documents state that Sorensen then stopped complying with WA DCYF’s mandatory drug tests and he would not reply to messages from WA DCYF. Otis’ mother, along with the person Sorenson was living with told WA DCYF that Sorensen had purchased black market urine to pass his drug test; Sorensen denied this claim. After not being able to make contact with Sorensen, WA DCYF called the police for help, but at this point it was too late to save baby Otis.

Port Townsend police found Sorensen hiding in a tent at Kah Tai Park. Sorenson tried to escape, but he was later arrested. While in custody, Sorensen stated that Otis was dead, and he showed Port Townsend police the bushes where he hid the newborn’s body.

Sorenson told police that he had fallen asleep holding Otis, and when he woke up the infant was wedged between himself and a chair; there was blood on the baby’s face, and he was not breathing. The medical examiner found that the substance on Otis’ face was purge fluid and it had emerged after death as part of the decomposition process. A toxicology report shows there was a small amount of methamphetamine present, which was likely from environmental exposure. Neither the medical examiner or toxicology expert could determine if the amount of meth played a role in the newborn's death.

Sorenson was initially charged with second-degree kidnapping, unauthorized removal or concealment of a body and unauthorized disposal of a body. however the charges against Sorenson were later dismissed without prejudice as the Prosecutor stated there was not enough evidence to support felony criminal charges.

James Kennedy, the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney, thinks a new law that went into effect in July 2023, called the “Keeping Families Together Act” played a role in the death of Otis Sorenson. The law states that the existence of things like inadequate housing or substance abuse, do not by themselves constitute imminent physical harm to a child. Kennedy said that has proven to be wrong. “I don't want to see this happen again," Kennedy said. "This was a foreseeable result. I don't understand how the legislature did not contemplate this happening when they passed this law. It's preventable. And I don't want to see another child die in circumstances like this.”

Otis Sorenson

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