Parents Charged After Second Baby Dies While Sleeping With Them


Co-sleeping is already the cause of much bickering between parenting experts, and it’s likely that the debate will be getting more heated. A couple from Lufkin, Texas has been indicted after losing their second baby in two years, and prosecutors say the babies died because they were sleeping with their parents.

ABC News reports that Mark and Vanessa Clark lost their first child in May 2009, when the boy was 39 days old. After police investigated and an autopsy was performed, it was determined that the child died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome while he was sleeping with his parents. No charges were filed, but the Clarks were ordered to take a course on infant sleep safety through CPS. A spokeswoman for the department says the first instruction in the class is “Sleep alone.”

It seems the Clarks ignored this warning, and in July 2010 a second three-month-old baby died while sleeping in their bed. They were charged with child endangerment. Prosecutors say they “intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence” put the child at risk of “imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impariment, by sleeping with said child in the same bed when said child that was less than four months of age.” Cosleeping isn’t illegal, but a local CPS Special Investigator says negligence is an issue because the couple had completed safe-sleep training.

Kids have slept in their parent’s beds since ancient times, and the practice is still common all over the world. There are many who would argue it’s always dangerous to sleep with a young child, but cosleeping advocates say the practice is natural and increases the bond between parents and children. Yet even passionate cosleepers may be hesitant to leap to the Clarks’ defense. ABC reports:

Mark and Vanessa Clark have had trouble with the law in the past. Mark Clark was charged with driving while his license was suspended, but Vanessa Clark has been convicted of more serious crimes and has served jail time on multiple occasions. Her charges include aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, theft, trespass and “assault causes bodily injury family member” in 1998.

Mark also chose to convey the couple’s statement on the matter in a Facebook message. From KTRE:

“We love our children. We would never do anything to hurt them! Ask anyone who knows us what kind of parents we are. Promise you will get nothing but good reports! These so called DA detectives and CPS workers are just trying make an example out of us, but here’s where the catch is: They’re not.”

We don’t know all the details about the children’s deaths, and though the Clarks sound vaguely suspicious, that doesn’t make them guilty of a crime. A jury will rule on whether or not they’re responsible for their child’s death, and if convicted, they’re facing six months to two years in jail and $10,000 in fines.

Texas Parents Charged After Infant Dies In Their Bed [ABC News]
Lufkin Couple’s Baby Death 2nd In 2 Years [KTRE]

Earlier: The Issue That’s Turning Mom Against Mom

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