Lufkin woman, 37, is sentenced to 119 months in prison for co-sleeping…
Posted: Thursday, August 23, 2012 1:54 pm
Updated: 10:33 am, Fri Aug 24, 2012.
By JESSICA COOLEY/The Lufkin NewsThe Lufkin News
A Lufkin mother on Thursday was sentenced to one month shy of 10 years in prison in connection with the July 2010 co-sleeping death of her 4-month-old son.
Baby Tristan was Vanessa Clark’s second child to die while sharing a king-sized bed with her and her husband Mark. Following the 2009 death of 1-month-old Christian, which was ruled Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Child Protective Services advised the couple not to share their bed with any future children, according to previous reports.
For the first time since the case began, Clark took the stand in her own defense Thursday, claiming it was never her intention to fall asleep with the baby in the bed. She went on to say that being up all hours of the night with a newborn while continuing to care for the couple’s 3-year-old was exhausting.
“I fell asleep. It was not intentional,” Clark said. “He has to fall asleep beside me. Once I put him in the bassinet, he woke back up and I put him back in bed with me. I had no idea I was going to fall asleep.”
Clark’s husband was tried on the same charge in May, but a jury found him not guilty. Prosecutor Dale Summa put Mark Clark on the stand Thursday, questioning him about his wife’s judgment on the night in question.
“You told your wife to place the baby in the bassinet. Is that true?” Summa asked.
“Yes. Before I fell asleep, he was in the bed,” he said.
Summa went on to question Mark Clark about his wife’s treatment of their 3-year-old at the time their infant died. After answering “she was hard on him, but nothing serious,” Mark Clark called upon his attorney Bill Agnew for a private discussion.
Agnew then announced his client wished to invoke his spousal privilege to prevent him from testifying against his wife.
“He only wants to testify about what he legally has to and nothing else,” Agnew said.
Summa went on to question Mark Clark about the couple’s home life, going back to the night in question and his wife’s prescription drug addiction.
“When you’re a mother, you’re going to stay up half the night taking care of the baby. I’m not going to say the medication did it,” he said.
After hearing from a few of Clark’s family members, her attorney, John Reeves, called her to stand to address her previous criminal history, the five years she spent in prison and her oldest son, who has been raised by her grandparents.
“I’m not the person I used to be. Prison changed me,” she said. “Please don’t take me away from my children. My son starts school Monday and I would like to be there for that.”
In cross examination, Summa asked Clark about her tanning while she was pregnant with baby Tristan.
“How important was it for you to get that tan?” Summa asked Clark.
“It wasn’t vital. Just something cosmetic. I didn’t have to have it,” she said. “My doctor told me it was OK after my third month.”
“And who was that?” Summa asked.
“I can’t recall because I saw so many doctors,” she said.
All of the testimony was completed around 1:30 p.m. Because of a previous aggravated assault conviction, Clark’s child endangerment charge was enhanced from a state jail felony to a third-degree felony.
Given all the facts of the case, White was then faced with deciding whether Clark merited probation or spending up to 10 years in prison. Clark stood, trembling, as White announced her sentence — 119 months in prison. She immediately began sobbing as her husband clasped his head in his hands crying.
White told Clark the case is about more than just co-sleeping, bringing attention to her abuse of Xanax and hydrocodone.
“I may be painted as a home wrecker, but you had the capacity of doing that on your own,” White said. “Understand this is not about the illegality of co-sleeping, it is about a number of factors you had in your life. Unlike you, I cannot ignore the prior episode.”
He went on to tell Clark that her sentence — 9 years and 11 months — means she will be eligible for bond upon filing an appeal because he had the foresight to sentence her one month shy of 10 years in prison.
“If you walk away with an appeal bond, are you going to make a media exploitation of this?” he asked her. “Do you know what I mean?”
“Yes, get on national TV,” she said, shaking her head.
In May, Clark and her husband appeared on Inside Edition to talk about the case.
“I have sympathy and empathy for anyone who loses a child,” White said, “but my concern for children always trumps that of an adult.”
With his wife put in the custody of Angelina County, Mark Clark said they will likely hire their own attorney on the appeal to get her out of jail as quickly as possible on a $10,000 bond.
Jessica Cooley’s email address is email@example.com.
Original Story found on The Lufkin News website: http://lufkindailynews.com/news/local/article_07ff4836-ed54-11e1-8b61-0019bb2963f4.html
Tired mothers or fathers place a baby on a bed or couch with them, or nestle the baby on their chest, and then fall asleep. As they sleep the baby tangles in the bedding, or rolls face-down into a mattress, or gets wedged under an adult or sibling also in the bed.
They wake to find their baby blue and lifeless.
“I respond right away to these calls, and what I see are broken-up families. Torn up people,” said Tonya Tanksley, a detective in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s child abuse unit. “And unfortunately, most of the time, when we go into the properties, we see a crib, and the crib is filled with dirty clothes or other things — everything but the baby.”
Since the start of this year, the St. Louis Medical Examiner’s Office has recorded six infant deaths determined or suspected to be caused by sharing a bed or couch. In 2011 the office recorded seven such deaths for the whole year.
The spike in what health experts consider preventable accidental deaths has led some to tie it to the high foreclosure and eviction rates in a poor economy. It has also prompted the St. Louis Department of Health to issue a public safety warning of the elevated risk of suffocation and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome — or SIDS — from sharing a bed or a couch with a baby.
Babies should always sleep alone, on their backs, in a crib, the health advisory states.
“Parents should never allow a toddler or infant to sleep in an adult’s bed, a chair or a sofa, even if the adult is present,” said Interim City Health Director Pamela Walker.
Walker said she became aware of the problem after sitting in a city child fatality review session on another matter. She was shocked when she saw the agenda had numerous infant deaths all related to bed-sharing.
“I just don’t think people understand the risks that they’re taking with their babies,” she said. “You love them so much, and you cuddle and you nurse and you doze off. Unless someone puts it in your face, and unless doctors tell you what a risk it is, people do it.”
GENESEE COUNTY, MI – Recently released data showed a significant decrease in Genesee County infant death rates.
In fact, Genesee County Health Department officials say it’s the lowest it’s been in 25 years.
The infant death rate (from birth to one year of age) for 2010 in Genesee County was 5.7 per 1,000 births compared to 9.4 deaths in 2009, according to a press release from the Genesee County Health Department.
“I’m extremely pleased,” said Mark Valacak, Genesee County Health Department health officer. “This has been an area where we as a department and we as a community have come together to focus on an issue and had success from coming together.”
Seeing a decrease in infant deaths can be contributed to different community groups coming together to improve mother and infant health, promote healthier lifestyles and routine doctor visits and offer better access to care, Valacak said.
One of the biggest drops came in the number of African American infant deaths in the city of Flint, according to the release. Flint’s average infant death rate was 7.5 per 1,000 live births in 2010 compared to the 18.9 per 1,000 births in 2009 and 12.6 in 2008.
The Genesee County African American infant death rate also dropped drastically from 20.3 per 1,000 births in 2009 to 7.9 in 2010.
The death rate among African American infants, which has historically been two to three times greater than that of white infants, was lower than white infant deaths in Flint for the first time, according to the release.
In the city of Flint the white infant death rate increased in 2010 to 9.5 deaths per 1,000 births compared to 4.7 in 2009. In Genesee County the white infant death rate dropped to 4.8 in 2010 from 5.2 in 2009.
The numbers are positive overall, but a harder look needs to be taken into the data to understand it a little better, Valacak said. The trends will need to be followed over the years to see if they continue.
“We want to look at trends over time and ensure that we are dealing with problems we can identify,” he said.
Written by Kris Pickel, WKYV-TV
11:55 PM, May 16, 2012
Lisa speaks about her son Dayton just as any loving mother does.
“He had dark brown hair, big blue eyes, and a great big smile. A ridiculous smile.”
The pictures of Dayton show a little baby with a shock of brown hair and the kind of infectious grin that melts hearts.
Dayton would have turned 10 this year. Sadly, he did not live to see his first birthday.
For years, Lisa told well-meaning inquirers that her baby had died of SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. She couldn’t bring herself to share the truth.
“No one wants to tell them I rolled on top of my baby,” she says.
Lisa says her pediatrician encouraged her to sleep with her baby, telling her sharing a bed encourages bonding and longer breastfeeding.
On October 27, 2002, Lisa woke to find Dayton not breathing. “I woke up and my shoulder was pressed against his face and he wasn’t breathing,” she says.
Lisa’s story is heartbreaking, but throughout Ohio, health officials say it’s not uncommon. The Ohio Child Fatality Review Board reports that between 2005 and 2009, 66 percent of all infant sleep-related deaths occurred to babies who were sharing a sleep surface with another person.
“When I look at just Cuyahoga County, every fall I am reminded that we average 21 sleep-related deaths a year. That’s a kindergarten class of children that’s not going to school but should be,” says Lorrie Considine, a registered nurse, and program manager at the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.
RETHINK YOUR POSITION!!
City of Milwaukee Health Department/Serve co-sleep campaign PSA
Officials hope to prevent deaths
April 13, 2012
Those were the words spoken by Eileen M. Carlins about how to let children sleep, during a symposium Thursday morning at Pennsylvania College of Technology. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death in infants from a month to a year of age.
“There is so much we know today that we didn’t know years ago,” said Carlins, director of support and education for SIDS of Pennsylvania.
In 1994, the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on SIDS started the “Back to Sleep” campaign, encouraging people to rest babies on their backs.
The SIDS rate in the nation halved by 1999, Carlins said.
Some parents lay their children on their stomachs because they say the infants sleep better that way, said Dr. Michael Goodstein, attending neonatologist at York Hospital and director of York County Cribs for Kids.
“Some babies will sleep themselves to death,” said Goodstein, the medical director for Cribs for Kids National Infant Safe Sleep Initiative.
TOLEDO, OH — Authorities Friday were investigating the death of a 6-week-old girl who died while sleeping in the same bed as her parents.
Kira Thomas was declared dead at the home where she lived with her parents in the 3800 block of Drexel Drive in West Toledo, according to a Toledo police incident report.
The report, which has few details, says the baby was sleeping in her parents’ bed Thursday.
The girls’ parents are Lea Wuellner and Donald Thomas, ages not listed.
An autopsy on the infant was completed Friday by Dr. Diane Scala-Barnett, deputy coroner. She said she is awaiting test results before making a ruling on the cause of death, but she doesn’t suspect foul play.
Toledo police Sgt. Joe Heffernan said the investigation is pending the coroner’s ruling.
Nationally, there is debate concerning the dangers of bed-sharing because of similar deaths of infants.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – For the second time since 2000, more Ohio children have died from asphyxia than from vehicular crashes.
“Infants are dying because they are co-sleeping or bed sharing and we have that proof. This report is proof that infants are dying. One child every three days dies in a sleep environment death in Ohio, one every three days,” said Akron Children’s Hospital neonatologist Dr. Elena Rossi.
The state has been working to reduce preventable child deaths since 2000 when it established the Child Fatality Review.
In its most recent report, seven percent of all deaths reviewed were from asphyxia, including suffocation, strangulation and choking. Half of the deaths were children less than one year of age and many occurred in a sleep environment.
“That is why we’ve been putting forth this effort to educate and put the billboards on the busses etc. to try to reduce the number because it is so preventable. We hope through education to change behavior,” said Mahoning County Health Commissioner Patricia Sweeney.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has put forth recommendations for safe sleep practices. Neonatologist Dr. Elena Rossi said they’re very clear. “The safe position for sleep for all babies is on their back and only on their back, in their own bed with no bumper pads, no loose items in the crib with a tight fitted sheet.”
Link to Original Story: http://www.wfmj.com/story/18818099/pren
Feb. 9, 2012 10:30 a.m.
A $50,000 grant from the UnitedHealth Foundation to the city of Milwaukee’s Cribs for Kids program over the next year will help the city provide free portable cribs to families that cannot afford them, and help raise awareness of safe sleep practices.
The grant is to be announced during a 10:30 a.m. press conference at the Northwest Health Center, 7630 W. Mill Road, one of three locations where referrals, education and distribution of the portable cribs are administered.
The Cribs for Kids program provides families with portable Pack ‘n Play cribs to help reduce deaths due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and unsafe sleep. Pack ‘n Plays are provided to families who are unable to purchase one, and who are in their last four weeks of pregnancy or who have an infant under six months of age.
Pack ‘n Plays are used because they are portable. Before a family is given a Pack ‘n Play, Cribs for Kids provides education and training on proper sleep position and sleep environment for the baby.
To participate in the Cribs for Kids program in Milwaukee, a Medicaid-eligible parent can make an appointment at any one of the three Milwaukee Health Department Safe Sleep Clinics located throughout the city. Each appointment lasts about an hour. During that time, the parent learns about safe sleep practices and is given a demonstration of how to set up and take down the Pack ‘n Play. To contact the Cribs for Kids Program by phone, call (414)286-8620.
Milwaukee Health Department’s Cribs for Kids program started in 2009 and continues to grow each year, giving out 400 cribs in 2009 and almost 1000 cribs each year in 2010 and 2011. Mayor Tom Barrett and City Health Commissioner Bevan Baker are to be joined at the press conference by Jeff Nohl, president of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Wisconsin, and Bruce Weiss, market medical director for UnitedHealthcare of Wisconsin.
Original Article: JSOnline (Milwaukee Journal Sentinal)
Huffington Post – 01/ 8/12 07:24 PM ET
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Court of Appeals has refused to dismiss charges against a couple accused of killing their baby in 2006 by sleeping with him – their second child to die in bed with them.
The appeals judges sided with a lower court in a pair of opinions released Friday concerning the death of 3-month-old Kayson Merrill. The infant died while in bed between his father, Trevor Merrill, and mother, Echo Nielsen, both 28, of South Jordan.
The parents, whose first child also died while sleeping with them in 2003, have been charged with child-abuse homicide and reckless endangerment. They have pleaded not guilty.
Defense attorneys argued there wasn’t enough certainty to go to trial after the medical examiner also cited illness and low birth weight in his report.