ARLINGTON — An Arlington teenager is under investigation for last week’s death of her 4-month-old son, who may have accidentally suffocated on a plastic grocery bag left in his bassinet.
Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives are trying to determine if the child’s mother, 17, was criminally negligent when she placed her son in a bassinet with a plastic bag. The teen reportedly told detectives that she heard the plastic bag when she put her son down for a nap, but failed to remove it, according to a search warrant filed this week in Everett District Court.
That constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise in the same situation, Sheriff’s Detective Scott Wells wrote. That could amount to second-degree manslaughter, court papers said.
A manslaughter charge would indicate that investigators don’t believe the boy’s death was intentional, but it was still the result of a potential crime.
No charges have been filed against the teen.
Sheriff’s Chief Kevin Prentiss declined on Friday to discuss the case, saying the investigation is ongoing.
The girl called 911 on Nov. 28, reporting that her boy wasn’t breathing. The girl was instructed to move the infant to the kitchen table and begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Paramedics rushed to the home and took over life-saving efforts. The boy was taken to the hospital. He couldn’t be revived.
The teen allegedly told the first deputies on scene that she had put her son down for a nap about an hour before she discovered that he wasn’t breathing. She said that she was filling out paperwork to enroll herself in school and enroll her child in day care.
She went to check on her son and found a plastic bag on his face.
Major crimes detectives were summoned to the home. A detective informed the teen that her son hadn’t survived. The girl sobbed for several minutes and then vomited, Wells wrote.
The teen allegedly told detectives that her son had been suffering from a cold for about a month. She told investigators that the boy was taken to the hospital about two weeks prior, after he appeared to suffer from a seizure. She also explained that there is a history in her family of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
The syndrome is described as the sudden death of baby that cannot be explained even after a thorough examination of the child and his medical history. SIDS rates are higher among infants born to teenaged mothers. Infants who sleep on their sides or stomachs also have a higher rate of dying from the syndrome, according to the American SIDS Institute.
Detectives reported that the girl told them that she had cleaned the bassinet the previous night. She stripped off the sheets and blankets and wiped down the mattress because her son had urinated on it. She placed a pillowcase over the mattress. She said she didn’t notice, or hear, a plastic bag at that time.
Then on the Nov. 28 she placed her son on his stomach in the bassinet. She allegedly told investigators she heard a crinkling sound, which she thought was a small plastic baggie. She said she thought it was under the pillow case, according to the search warrant. She explained that in the room she shared with her son there had been a baggie that contained tacks. She said she thought maybe the baggie got pulled into the bassinet when she grabbed the pillowcase off of her bed.
She allegedly told detectives that she didn’t give the baggie much thought because her son was on his stomach and was happy.
The girl then was interviewed by an investigator with the medical examiner’s office. Detectives say the information she gave him was different from what she initially told them.
She reportedly told the medical investigator that she heard a crinkly sound the night before when she laid her son down.
The teen allegedly agreed to re-enact how she made up the bassinet and where her son was lying when she put him down. Detectives say the girl put a pillowcase over a white plastic bag, tucking the linen around the mattress, except for one edge that couldn’t be secured. She told investigators that she placed her son on top of the pillow case that was covering the plastic bag.
She explained that one of the times she checked on her son he had moved slightly toward the edge of the bassinet but appeared to be fine. She then allegedly showed investigators, using a doll, how she later found her son.
She said the bag and pillowcase had become untucked from the mattress. The bag was over the baby’s face and his arm was holding the bag down on the mattress, court papers said.
Detectives found a white plastic grocery bag in the bassinet, according to court papers. There was blood on the bag. There also was a small pair of white socks in the bassinet.
Doctors didn’t find any signs of trauma to the child. Investigators were waiting on toxicology reports, which can take several weeks. However, the doctor told investigators that he expected to conclude that the boy died of “asphyxia due to airway obstruction due to unsafe sleep environment,” court papers said.
Detectives were notified last week that the teen was being represented by the Snohomish County Public Defender’s Association. The attorneys told investigators that the teen wouldn’t be providing any more statements.
Detectives last week seized the bassinet and the teen’s cellphone from the public defender’s office.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.