A Florida woman has been charged with manslaughter after killing a second child, seven years after the first one died. Erin Piche-Pitts had fallen asleep on her 18-day-old son after feeding him.
The 25-year-old was booked into the Polk County Central Jail. His death comes seven years after Piche-Pitts’ 13-day-old daughter died from suffocation. An autopsy established that the child had died from “probable overlay and co-sleeping.”
It was not the first time that the 25-year-old had been arrested by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. In July, she was charged with the possession of methamphetamine, she was pregnant with her second child at the time. According to police records, she spent over a month in jail and was released shortly before her son was born.
In 2014, she spent over two months in jail after being arrested for attempted burglary, grand theft, fraud and again possession of methamphetamine. She was on probation for a battery case in 2011 and grand theft in 2012. When she had her first child in 2009, Piche-Pitts was cautioned over the risks of sharing a bed with a newborn.
Unfortunately, she fell asleep while she was breastfeeding the infant and woke up to find her unresponsive. The death of Angelina Lucina Piche’s death was ruled as an accident. Seven years later she was pregnant with her second child. Piche-Pitts was instructed to attended classes on how to put a baby to bed and get acquainted with the dangers of co-sleeping.
In addition, the 25-year-old woman had a one-on-one session with doctors before she was discharged from the hospital. Despite all these things to prevent it happening again, the second child died. According to Erin, her child woke her up, crying for food. She said she gave him a bottle and fell asleep with him in her arms. When she woke up, the child was unresponsive like his sister. Police established that the second child had died “through her own culpable negligence and without lawful justification” and charged her with aggravated manslaughter.
This case once again brings up the contentious issue of co-sleeping. Some parents believe that it is crucial to share a bed with their babies because of late night feeding. However, some people frown upon this practice, arguing that children be placed in their cribs or in different rooms.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, over 3,500 babies die in America from sleep-connected deaths, including the sudden death syndrome which is the unanticipated death of a child under the age of one. An autopsy does not confirm a reasonable cause of death.
After an initial drop in the number of accidental suffocation and strangulation deaths in the 1990’s, the number has spiked. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a secure sleeping environment to whittle down the risks of sleep-related deaths. The recommendations include the use of firm sleeping surfaces, supine positioning, room sharing without bed-sharing and the avoidance soft beds.
The Piche-Pitts case once again presented prosecutors with the challenge of co-sleeping being considered a form of neglect, especially when the Florida mother was warned on both counts about the risks of sleeping with her children.
“These are very, very difficult cases. We are not charging parents with crimes because accidents happen. There has got to be something more to it.”
This is not the first time a baby would be smothered to death. A six-week-old Modesto baby died while talking a nap with his mother. In Texas, Vanessa Clark a 33-year-old mother was convicted of child endangerment when her baby died while they were co-sleeping. She had lost an initial child in the same way.
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