Child Endangerment Conviction for Co-Sleeping death

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GloriaInTX's picture
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Child Endangerment Conviction for Co-Sleeping death

Do you agree with the verdict?

A Lufkin woman has been convicted of felony child endangerment after an infant died in her bed for the second time in a span of two calendar years.

Yesterday afternoon an Angelina County jury handed down a guilty verdict against Vanessa Clark, 33, for her role in the death of her two-month-old son Tristan on July 9, 2010. She told paramedics on the scene that the baby had died while sleeping in the bed he was sharing with Clark and husband Mark Clark.

She was indicted in connection with Tristan's death in June of 2011, after it came to light that the Clarks had lost a one-month-old son named Christian in 2009 in a nearly identical manner.

According to testimony in Clark's trial, after the demise of the first baby, CPS workers warned Clark in no uncertain terms about the dangers of co-sleeping: Infants can be suffocated accidentally by their parents or in the folds of their bedding and pillows.

Prosecutor Dale Summa told the court that because of that earlier tragedy, the Clarks should have known better than to risk a repeat, and by letting Tristan sleep in their bed, they were placing the boy in imminent danger, thus rising to the legal threshold of child endangerment in Texas criminal law.

Defense attorney John Reeves riposted that CPS did not expressly warn the Clarks against co-sleeping with Tristan under any circumstances but instead coached them on how to do it more safely. Reeves also contended that there is no law against sleeping with your children.

"It may not be illegal to sleep with your child, but it is illegal to put your child in imminent danger," countered Summa, and the jury apparently agreed with Summa's definition of "imminent danger." Clark, the bleach-blond locks and sunny smile of her mugshot now gone, reportedly trembled as the verdict was read.

She could face two years in state jail for the felony conviction, and Summa has said that he plans to try Mark Clark on the same charges soon.

Since elevated levels of hydrocodone and Xanax were found in her blood, and several jars of (legally prescribed) pills were found on her nightstand, Vanessa Clark faces mandatory drug testing while she waits at home for sentencing.

The court is compiling a pre-sentencing report, and there is a lot of grist for that mill in Angelina County records. In addition to several theft and drug convictions, Clark was convicted of aggravated assault and sentenced to four years in prison back in 2000, though she was released through shock probation after serving less than a year. She hasn't kept her nose entirely clean since then, but the frequency and magnitude of the arrests on her rap sheet have both dwindled. Since getting out of prison, she's only piled up a couple of hot check busts and a shoplifting case.

Since the verdict hinged on an intriguing definition of "imminent danger," we're thinking we haven't seen the last of this case.

http://blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs/2012/04/vanessa_clark_second_sids_deat.php
http://lufkindailynews.com/news/local/article_899639ce-7e03-11e1-a674-0019bb2963f4.html
http://www.ktre.com/story/17321949/defense-argues-baby-died-of-sids-not-from-co-sleeping

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I don't know. I don't personally like these campaigns of "If you sleep with your child they might die!" If you don't sleep with your child they might die too, of other hazards from being left alone, such as strangulation and choking. In one scenario you could say "You should have been with your child, in the other scenario you say "you shouldn't have slept with your child"

I think these are all just tragic accidents and it should be left up to the parent which kind of risk they would rather take.

The *only* thing that might convince me that its not okay in this case is that she had some drugs in her system. To me, thats kind of like the same dangers as operating heavy machinery while under the influence. Extra dangers come along in those situations.

I don't know. I really don't like to see co-sleeping demonized. Sleeping is part of babyhood and i think no matter which way you do it, there are going to be certain risks involved.

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Reading through the article I was siding with the parents, up until it said there were drugs in her system. Any cosleeping advocate will tell you that you shouldn't be sleeping with your child when using drugs, alcohol, sedatives, pain killers, etc.

Having lost a child in a similar manner before, you would have thought they would have been more careful about following the cosleeping "rules".

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This child didn't die from co-sleeping, he died from a drug-afflicted parent.

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I am more then a little shocked that they would chose to co-sleep after losing a baby that way. Especially given that she was taking meds. I would say that she definitely put her child in danger

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I'm torn on this one. If they hadn't had a prior death because of the co-sleeping, I wouldn't agree with the conviction. But, the fact that they let it happen again makes me wonder about it. Either they were so stupid that they would actually risk another child's life in this manner (I know many parents are co-sleepers, but if you lost a baby due to this would you ever do it again?) or maybe it was done on purpose, in which case the conviction should stand. It's so hard to say and I would never want to have the rights of co-sleeping taken away (I did it with DD), but this is a tough one.

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"Spacers" wrote:

This child didn't die from co-sleeping, he died from a drug-afflicted parent.

Exactly. I co slept with all of my babies, and would NOT have while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. That was what the guest room is for. Charge them.

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I just hope when they are charged that the whole thing is presented as an issue of being under the influence. Not simply co-sleeping. Even though this is a case of being drug-afflicted....it worries me that this could be bad for co-sleeping as a whole.

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It sounds like she was at least trying to get the baby to sleep in the bassinet.

The state rested its case around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. The defense’s main evidence put on Tuesday was the police interview Clark gave four hours after Tristan’s death. In the video a blonde Clark is seen sobbing in the interrogation room, her head in her hands before the detective enters to begin questioning her. When he sits down in front of her, she pulls herself together to begin answering his questions.

“The doctor promised me this wouldn’t happen again,” Clark told the detective, stifling a sob. “I trusted God. I trusted he wouldn’t take another child from me.”

Clark went on to tell the detective how she and her husband Mark lay down with Tristan around 9 that evening. She said she put Tristan in the bed with them until he fell asleep and then moved him over to his bassinet.

“He won’t go to sleep in his bassinet. He wakes right back up,” she said. That is exactly what happened after she lay him in the bassinet, she said.

Clark said she gave him a pacifier, but when he wouldn’t go back to sleep she put him back in their king-sized bed. She had set an alarm for 4:30 a.m. to feed and change him. When the alarm went off, Clark found her baby cold and stiff.

“I knew when I touched him. He was so stiff. I just started screaming,” she told the detective, breaking down. “I just wish this wasn’t happening and he was back here with me.”

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Terrible excuse for parents. One of the few people along with child molestors who should be sterilized. Yes her actions were a felony.
.

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"Spacers" wrote:

This child didn't die from co-sleeping, he died from a drug-afflicted parent.

This.

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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

It sounds like she was at least trying to get the baby to sleep in the bassinet.

There are so many things wrong with this story that I honestly don't believe this part. What mom with a 2-month-old baby goes to bed at 9pm and sets the alarm for 4:30am? A baby that age needs to be eating every 2 or 3 hours. Something isn't right with that. She also had *elevated* levels of hydrocodone and Xanax, that means beyond the normal prescription amount, when she had a 2-month-old relying on her. Something isn't right with that. The baby wouldn't sleep in the bassinet so they did the same thing that killed their first baby. Something isn't right with that. Their defense attorney says CPS coached them on how to co-sleep more safely. Something isn't right with that since most CPS departments are on record as adamantly opposing co-sleeping, and since I've not seen any photos showing the Clarks' safe-for-co-sleeping-bed made with a very firm mattress, no pillows, blankets tucked down low, and a guard rail.

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It's absolutely the fault of being on a high dosage of drugs more than the co-sleeping. We co slept as they got older (and next to bed when newborns/infants) so I'm not against co sleeping but if I had lost one child while we co slept I personally would never do it again.

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"KimPossible" wrote:

I don't know. I don't personally like these campaigns of "If you sleep with your child they might die!" If you don't sleep with your child they might die too, of other hazards from being left alone, such as strangulation and choking. In one scenario you could say "You should have been with your child, in the other scenario you say "you shouldn't have slept with your child"

I think these are all just tragic accidents and it should be left up to the parent which kind of risk they would rather take.

The *only* thing that might convince me that its not okay in this case is that she had some drugs in her system. To me, thats kind of like the same dangers as operating heavy machinery while under the influence. Extra dangers come along in those situations.

I don't know. I really don't like to see co-sleeping demonized. Sleeping is part of babyhood and i think no matter which way you do it, there are going to be certain risks involved.

I agree with this. I didn't personally co-sleep because it didn't really fit with our family (having a very colicky baby, the only time I had any sort of time to de-stress from all of that was at night, once he was asleep in his crib, and I honestly needed the break from him. That sounds mean, but it's true.) But I do believe that co-sleeping can be done safely, or anyway as safely as not co-sleeping (everything has it's freak dangers, as Kim pointed out.) I think they should give more focus to the fact that she was on drugs and therefore should not have been co-sleeping for that reason. I don't know if I think the parents should be charged though. I can't imagine that anything they could do to her would be worse than losing two babies and blaming yourself.

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I co-slept safely with my daughter and plan to do the same with the new baby as well. We never had any near accidents. But I also wasn't high on drugs or alcohol. This isn't a case about co-sleeping but rather a parent who chose to take pills rather than take care of their newborn. She should be charged.

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"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

I agree with this. I didn't personally co-sleep because it didn't really fit with our family (having a very colicky baby, the only time I had any sort of time to de-stress from all of that was at night, once he was asleep in his crib, and I honestly needed the break from him. That sounds mean, but it's true.) But I do believe that co-sleeping can be done safely, or anyway as safely as not co-sleeping (everything has it's freak dangers, as Kim pointed out.) I think they should give more focus to the fact that she was on drugs and therefore should not have been co-sleeping for that reason. I don't know if I think the parents should be charged though. I can't imagine that anything they could do to her would be worse than losing two babies and blaming yourself.

No it doesn't. It's honest. I coslept with Ben for 9 months because he couldn't get through an hour without me. I only did it so I could get some sleep and function on some level. At 9 months I'd had enough and we parted ways at bedtime. I know that sounds mean too, but I'm sane (relatively speaking ;)) to this day.

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"Claire'sMommy" wrote:

No it doesn't. It's honest.

ITA with this. I co-slept with my babies because I feel it's the best thing for them from a biological & developmental point of view. But also, as a full-time WOH mom, I craved being close to them as much as I could. And, as the sole support for my family, I need to be able to do my job 100% every day (less pg.org time, of course Wink ) and getting up to nurse a baby every hour or two all night long would have been much too draining. It was a selfish decision in addition to it feeling like the right thing for my baby.