Defense argues baby died of SIDS, not from co-sleeping

Vanessa Clark. Source: Angelina County Jail.
Vanessa Clark. Source: Angelina County Jail.

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Trial resumed Tuesday in the case against Vanessa Clark, the woman charged with killing her second child while sleeping with it.

CPS employee Amanda Mott was called to the stand. She was involved with investigating the  couple after the death of their first child and educated Vanessa Clark, 33, and her husband, Mark Clark, on the dangers of co-sleeping.

The prosecution presented a door knocker as evidence to the jury. The Clarks were given the same one by CPS.  The door knocker was filled with tips on how to keep children safe when they are put to bed.

In her investigation in 2009, Mott recalls Vanessa saying she wished she had "been more informed."

According to Mott, infants can't protect themselves in an adult-sized bed. She went on to say that there is no instance where co-sleeping is beneficial.

The defense argued if children aren't  safe in a bed, then where are they safe?  Defense attorney John Reeves went on to say two-month-old Tristan's death was due to a condition called sudden infant death syndrome.

SIDS is the unexpected, sudden death of a child under the age of one, in which an autopsy doesn't show an explainable cause of death. The defense claims that co-sleeping didn't cause the condition.

The Clarks were indicted in June 2011 after an investigation into the July 2010 death of their two-month-old son. This followed the May 2009 death of a child between the age of four and six months.

A grand jury concluded in July that the couple was negligent in again sleeping with a child and indicted them on a charge of endangering a child.

Lisa Soto was also called to the stand. Soto was a CPS supervisor when both deaths occurred.

After Christian's death in 2009, Soto met the Clarks at their residence to discuss the dangers of co-sleeping.

According the Soto,  prior to Christian's death, Clark was never aware of the dangers of co-sleeping or the SIDS condition.

"She wished she known about it prior to having Christian and lesson learned," Soto said.

Soto said blankets, stuffed animals and excess pillows can be potentially fatal in a child's sleeping area.

"I advise that all babies need to sleep in a crib or a bassinet by themselves with a tight-fitted sheet on the mattress," Soto said.

"When a child has a crib they can sleep in by themselves it's the safest," she said.

Soto said there were a lot of things that could have been done differently in the death of Christian Clark, and after meeting with Vanessa Clark in 2009 she said she would go about things differently if she had any more children.

Dr. Jeffery Bernard took the stand this afternoon. Bernard is the chief medical examiner in Dallas County.

Bernard conducted Tristan Clark's autopsy and found nothing out of the ordinary.

From the autopsy, Bernard was able to rule out certain scenarios such as disease, and blunt trauma injuries but couldn't pin point a definite cause of death.

According to Bernard, cardiac irregularity, asphyxia and mechanical compression are all potential causes for the infant's death. Mechanical compression is caused from something extrinsic pushing down on an individual.

Bernard say that parents who sleep in the same bed as their child can possibly create the same environment as is if they were being smothered, depending on the sleeping patterns of the adults in the bed.

"You could cover the face and create the same environment as if they were face down," said Bernard.

Bernard examined tissues for any irregularities in Tristan's condition at the time of his death, and found nothing that would have prevented the two-month old's breathing.

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