Lufkin couple's baby death 2nd in 2 years

Published: Jun. 27, 2011 at 3:38 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 28, 2011 at 12:34 AM CDT
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Mark Clark mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.
Mark Clark mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.
Vanessa Clark mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.
Vanessa Clark mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A Lufkin couple charged in the death of an infant boy also lost another baby two years ago, according to an Angelina County prosecuting attorney. Prosecutors believe both deaths were the result of them sleeping with the babies.

An Angelina County grand jury indicted Mark and Vanessa Clark, both 32, with a charge of child endangerment, following the July 2010 death of their child, who was under the age of three months.

Angelina County prosecuting attorney Dale Summa said in a telephone interview Monday that Hudson Police and Child Protective Services investigated the couple two years ago after a baby died when they slept with it. No criminal charges were ever filed on that case.

Chief Jeff Burns of Hudson PD said the first child died on May 21, 2009, and the case was never brought to a grand jury because an autopsy ruled the cause of death as unknown, and police did not believe a crime was committed. The child was between the ages of four and six months, Burns said.

Summa said he could not go into details of the evidence brought to a grand jury, but that it is believed the couple intentionally and knowingly caused the baby harm.

Lufkin Police and CPS investigated the three-month-old's death.

Summa pointed out that the age of the child makes a big difference in a criminal charge.

"Sleeping with a four-year-old is very different than an infant sleeping with two adults," he said.

In a Facebook message Monday, Mark Clark said law enforcement is just trying to make an example of him and his wife.

"We love our children," he said. "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."

The couple's attorney said they are disappointed with the indictment.

"Mark and Vanessa are entitled to the full presumption of innocence," John Tunnell said. "They will be tried in the courtroom. Vanessa and Mark place full confidence in our justice system and the fair-minded residents of Angelina County."

CPS Special Investigator Tony Jasso said parents are held accountable when they have reckless behavior.

While not confirming personal involvement with the Clarks' case, he could clarify that just sleeping with a baby isn't against the law.

However, he says a family's history plays a major role in these type of investigations.

"Basically you have to have a history for a pattern of neglect," Jasso said. "For instance, if this is not their first child death in the family."

Because the couple had completed safe-sleep training, negligence becomes an issue.

"Clearly, if they've gone through the training, been advised that after this, it's not safe," Jasso said. "There could be other factors involved. That could've not allowed to care for her child the way she should've."

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