Police: Mother caused baby’s death by co-sleeping, ignored repeated warnings

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PEACH BOTTOM, Pa. (WHTM) – A Lancaster County woman is charged with criminal homicide in the death of her 2-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 2-month-old child who died while sleeping in January 2011. That death, in Cecil County, Maryland, was also due to 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 said 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.”

In the complaint, police wrote that Harper showed an “extreme indifference to the value of human life” by ignoring the repeated warnings.

She 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.Get breaking news, weather and traffic on the go. Download the ABC27 News App and the ABC27 Weather App for your phone and tablet.

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