File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Washington - The warning to parents came a few hours after Galion, Ohio's appointed time for trick-or-treating on Sunday: A 5-year-old had tested positive for meth after collecting candy on the city's west side, officers said. Candy may have been "laced" with the drug, and parents should scour their children's sweets.

But nearly a week later, authorities were trying to scuttle any fears about a candy-drugging stranger. Braylen Carwell's problems were closer to home: Braylen's father, Cambray Carwell, has been charged with possession of methamphetamine and with evidence tampering, police announced on the same Facebook page they had used to warn the community.

Police say Carwell, 24, also tested positive for meth - a week after a hospital analysis found evidence of the drug in his son's system.

"I was putting my socks on, and then I started to shiver," the 5-year-old told CBS affiliate WBNS last week, describing what his parents said was a seizure. "And then I couldn't move my arm or my fingers."

The child's father rushed him to a hospital. By then, "the left side of his face was just droopy, and then he fell and then he couldn't move his left arm," his mother, Julia Pence, told WSYX, an ABC affiliate. "And he didn't know where he was, he didn't know what he was doing."

The boy's mother told WBNS that she and Braylen's father are recovering drug addicts but that both have been clean for years. She denied that her son could have come into contact with the meth via a family member.

After Braylen was released from the hospital on Sunday, police obtained a search warrant for Carwell's house. Inside they found drug paraphernalia, marijuana and methamphetamine. They also tested the boy's candy and toy teeth that his parents said he had put into his mouth. Those tests came back negative, removing any question of a nefarious person slipping drugs into children's bags.

"While we cannot definitively say how the little boy ingested methamphetamine, we are extremely confident that he did not ingest any candy from Trick or Treat that was tainted," the department said in its Facebook statement. "The boy is home, has been attending school and has not shown any lingering effects from the drug."

Carwell's story is eerily similar to one of the earliest claims that Halloween candy had been laced with drugs, contributing to an urban legend that still lingers in the minds of paranoid parents everywhere.

In 1970, 5-year-old Kevin Toston's family said he died after snacking on tainted trick-or-treat candy while staying at his uncle's house in Detroit. Authorities later determined that the child had gotten into his uncle's poorly hidden stash of heroin, eaten it and died.

But the story of a 5-year-old trick-or-treater dying after eating Halloween candy was stuck in people's minds, even as the claim was used to try to cover up other killings.

On October 31, 1974, Ronald Clark O'Bryan laced his 8-year-old's Pixy Stix with cyanide. The boy complained of searing stomach pain, then died on his way to a hospital, The Post reported.

O'Bryan's goal, Texas investigators learned, was collecting $20 000 in insurance money. To cover his tracks, he placed the cyanide-laced candy in bags belonging to his own children - and those of other kids in the neighbourhood.

He was executed a decade later, but not before other condemned prisoners gave him a villainous nickname that has endured for more than 40 years: the Candy Man.

The Washington Post