Have you ever let your baby sleep with you when they were less than four months? Maybe it was just a few minutes or maybe it was a few hours, or even all night long, but many parents would probably say they have done it at one time or another. Some parents co-sleep with their babies from infancy on. But I’m wondering if most parents know that in certain circumstances, the practice might be punishable by law?
A Texas couple is facing jail time for co-sleeping with their infant which lead to his death, partly because they had another infant die of S.I.D.S. two years ago in the same exact way.
According to ABC News, “the first death was ruled an accident, but the second death happened because Mark and Vanessa Clark ‘intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence’ put the child at risk of ‘imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment, by sleeping with said child in the same bed when said child that was less than four months of age.”
There is a lot more going on in this story. The first baby’s death was officially determined to be a case of sudden infant death syndrome.
Hudson Police Chief Jeff Burns who investigated the first case back in 2009 said, “There were no charges, no trauma, no forensic evidence that indicated criminal activity,” and he had no reason to believe it would ever happen again. Soon after, the couple was ordered to take a Safe Sleep training class through Child Protective Services where they were taught about infant sleep safety, with the number one rule being sleep alone, not with the baby.
On top of that Mark and Vanessa have been in trouble with the law before. Mark Clark was charged with driving while his license was suspended, and Vanessa Clark has been charged with “aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, theft, trespass and assault causes bodily injury family member” back in 1998.
The Clarks maintain that they are completely innocent and Mark sent a Facebook message to a Texas news station saying:
“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 to make an example out of us, but here’s where the catch is: They’re not.”
You would think that after losing one baby from S.I.D.S., a parent would be paranoid about ever letting an infant sleep in the bed again, but is it possible that the baby fell asleep in the bed and mom or dad was so exhausted that they fell asleep too when the tragedy occurred. I don’t know how I feel about the story, no one knows for sure what happened, and so many parents co-sleep. I have fallen asleep with an infant in the bed on more than one occasion.
In Texas, endangering a child is a state jail felony. The Clarks could possibly face six months to two years in a state jail and an additional $10,000 in fines. The arraignment is scheduled for July 25.
Is it possible that this couple suffered a horrific tragedy twice? Could S.I.D.S. be rooted in genetic/physical causes? Or was this a result of parents being careless and even negligent? And should they face a jail term?