BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - The daughter of a state lawmaker and her boyfriend are facing charges for the drug overdose death of a pregnant woman and the death of her unborn child, according to the Brown County Sheriff's Office.
Cassie Nygren and Shawn M. Gray appeared in court Thursday for probable cause hearings. The court ordered each suspect held on a $50,000 cash bond. They cannot have contact with each other.
During a news conference, Chief Deputy Todd Delain said their investigation started on June 2 when they were called to the 1500 block of S. Webster Ave in Allouez for a report of a pregnant woman who was not breathing.
Officers found 31-year-old Jennifer Skeen dead. She was 30-33 weeks pregnant. Her unborn child was also dead.
During Thursday's court hearing, prosecutors said that Skeen had been seen with Cassie Nygren the evening before she was found dead.
The medical examiner's office determined Skeen died of an overdose of the powerful opioid fentanyl and another drug. Her unborn child died due to maternal death, according to prosecutors.
Investigators determined that Nygren and Gray were persons of interest in Skeen's death.
On Oct. 9, the drug task force completed a controlled buy with Cassie Nygren and Shawn Gray. The undercover investigators said they were able to purchase .31 grams of heroin.
"I would describe them as middlers who distribute to support their habit and to live off of, but certainly they weren't making a lot of money doing it," said Chief Deputy Delain.
On Oct. 10, officers located and attempted to take Gray and Nygren into custody. They were driving in a car with Nygren's 14-month-old child.
They fled from officers, and due to the reckless nature of their driving, officers did not give chase. However, the duo was taken into custody.
"Mr. Gray and Ms. Nygren engaged in a pattern of extremely reckless and destructive behavior,-- reckless and destructive to themselves, others, and the community at whole," Delain says.
Prosecutors said that both suspects admitted to dealing heroin that was laced, which explains the victim's overdose on fentanyl. Gray states that he and Nygren delivered the drugs that were believed to have caused Skeen's death.
Jail records show Nygren is facing two counts of Reckless Homicide/Deliver Drugs; Manufacture/Deliver Heroin; Neglecting a Child; and Maintain a Drug Trafficking Place.
Gray, a sex offender, was booked on charges of reckless homicide and drug charges in this case. Gray was also arrested for Failure to Comply with Sex Offender Registry, Providing False Information to Sex Offender Registry, Resisting an Officer, and Bail Jumping, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Nygren's Facebook page states that she is engaged to Gray.
Criminal charges are expected to be filed next week.
Cassie Nygren has had a public battle with heroin abuse. It inspired her father, Republican state lawmaker John Nygren, to pass bills focused on heroin and opioid addiction in Wisconsin. Gov. Scott Walker has signed several bills in the HOPE (Heroin, Opioid, Prevention and Education) Agenda into law.
Rep. Nygren released this statement regarding his daughter's arrest:
“First and most importantly, I offer my sincere and heartfelt condolences for the loss of life. There are no words that we as a family can offer to give any real comfort for the tragic loss.
"To the family and friends of the victims of this tragedy, please know that you are in our prayers and that our hearts are heavy.
“Cassie has publicly struggled with addiction and recovery for several years. This is a strong reminder of how fragile the road to recovery is. We will continue to support and pray for her recovery.
“This is just another example, in a seemingly endless line, of the disastrous and destructive consequences addiction continues to have on families and communities nationwide. These stories are the motivating factor behind all our work in the legislature to fight this epidemic.
“In this time of extreme sadness and sorrow, I request that privacy and respect be extended to those grieving from their loss.”
In 2010, Nygren was convicted of narcotics possession and sentenced to state prison.
Action 2 News spoke to Cassie Nygren in 2013. She told us, "I was raised right, given morals to not do things that I've done so every time I come back here to try it again, I can't bear it. It's like a label I'm never going to be able to shake so I turn back to the drugs."
In June 2014, Nygren was released from prison and became an advocate for recovery.
In 2015, Nygren pleaded guilty to a charge of narcotics possession and was accepted into the Brown County Drug Court. Nygren did not graduate from the program and was sent to jail in 2016 after her probation was revoked.
Cassie Nygren worked with Rise Together, a movement that speaks to young people on issues, including drugs and alcohol.
The Rise Together team released this statement:
"Our prayers and support go out to Cassie Nygren and her family, including everyone that has been impacted by the grip of addiction. Together, our communities must lead with compassion and empathy in this great time of need. Addiction is not a moral failing issue but instead a chronic illness. Prevention works, treatment is effective, and people do recover. If you or a loved one is struggling do not continue to suffer in silence. Please seek the support that you need."
The group encourages people who need help to visit the Addiction Resource Hub.