Mother caused baby’s death by co-sleeping, police say

Jessica Harper

PEACH BOTTOM, PA (WHTM) – A Pennsylvania woman is charged with criminal homicide in the death of her two-month-old son.

Jessica M. Harper, 28, of Fulton Township, caused the infant to suffocate by sleeping with him despite repeated warnings, state police wrote in a criminal complaint.

Police said they were called to a home in the 2600 block of Robert Fulton Highway for a report of an infant not breathing and found the child dead on July 12. Harper told investigators she placed the boy in her bed and he slept between her and her 3-year-old daughter. When she awoke, she said the baby was not breathing.

An autopsy found the cause of death was asphyxiation.

Police said Harper had another child who died in January 2011 at 2 months old in Cecil County, Maryland; also by positional asphyxiation.

When her youngest son was born, police said Lancaster General Hospital made Harper read all safety conditions and sign a form that she acknowledged safe sleeping. She also had to watch a video on safe sleeping before she was discharged from the hospital.

Children and Youth advised her of the dangers of co-sleeping on May 20, and when the baby was admitted to a pediatric hospital in June, Harper was again made to watch a video about safe sleeping. Two nurses also spoke to her about the dangers of co-sleeping, the complaint states.

Police wrote that Harper’s pediatrician also repeatedly warned her of the dangers of co-sleeping. Six days before her son died, they said she responded to the repeated warnings by saying she was “going to do it anyway.”

Harper also was charged Thursday with involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child. She was placed in Lancaster County Prison without bail.

A preliminary hearing is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 20.

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