Fla. Mother Charged With Manslaughter After Her Newborn Dies While Co-Sleeping


A 25-year-old Florida woman, Erin Piche-Pitts, woke up in October to find her newborn son, Javier, dead next to her. According to The New York Times, Piche-Pitts told authorities Javier had woken up a couple of hours before, and she propped him up against a pillow in the crook of her arm with a bottle of formula, then fell back asleep. The mom said when she awoke, her baby was covered in blood and vomit and did not wake up, despite her attempts to revive him.

According to the Times:

Prosecutors say it was the second time an infant died under Ms. Piche-Pitts’s care: Her 13-day-old daughter, Angelina, died of suffocation in 2009. That was ruled an accident. A spokeswoman for the coroner’s office said Javier also died of accidental suffocation.

In November, Ms. Piche-Pitts was charged with felony aggravated manslaughter of a child. But the police did not arrest her until Tuesday, after prosecutors reviewed the affidavit and reports. She was scheduled to appear on Wednesday before a judge, according to Polk County’s chief assistant state attorney, Brian Haas. It was not immediately clear whether she had a lawyer.

Since Piche-Pitts’ first child had died as a result of co-sleeping while breastfeeding, the mother received training on the dangers of co-sleeping (and was also advised by her doctor) when she found out she was pregnant a second time.

In July, while pregnant, Ms. Piche-Pitts was arrested on a charge of possessing methamphetamine, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

The felony charge in Javier’s death was based on his being “killed in the same manner as her first child, Angelina, due to her own culpable negligence and without lawful justification,” according to the affidavit. A spokeswoman for the coroner’s office, Sheli Wilson, said the death certificate called it an accidental suffocation, but she added that an autopsy had not been finalized.

The American Academy of Pediatrics makes several recommendations to parents to keep children safe, including sleep recommendations for newborns to help avoid instances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), sleep-related suffocation and strangulation. According to the New York Times article on Piche-Pitts, “[t]o reduce the risk of those deaths, the academy recommends positioning of babies supine in bed, using a firm sleep surface, sharing a room without sharing a bed, and avoiding soft bedding and overheating.” Despite these recommendations, there are countless parents who choose to co-sleep (sleep with their baby in their bed) because of the difficulty of night feedings and the sleep deprivation that they can cause.

When infants die from such tragic accidents, however, the incidents are treated as such: accidents. It is rare to hear of a parent being arrested for the sleep-related death of his or her baby. But in this case, Piche-Pitts has been brought up on charges. As it turns out, this wasn’t the first time this mother experienced the death of an infant.