Jury finds Lufkin woman guilty of killing infant son

Updated: Mar. 22, 2016 at 9:48 PM CDT
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LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An Angelina County jury has found a Lufkin woman guilty in the death of her infant child.

Vanessa Clark now faces up to 20 years in prison on the child endangerment conviction.

After hearing the verdict, Clark requested a pre-sentence investigation. She will learn her sentence between four to six weeks.

She and her husband, Mark Clark, were indicted in 2011 for the 2010 death of their infant son. The death came a year after another infant child died while they slept with it. Investigators determined the second death came as a result of them sleeping with him.

The defense called its last witness at the beginning of day three of the Vanessa Clark trial. Defense attorney John Reeves, called Monica Oliver to the stand.

Oliver is a therapist at Samaritan Counseling Center. She counseled Mark and Vanessa Clark after the death of their first child, Christian, in 2009. Oliver says the Clarks had marital issues about the differences in their grieving process. The Clarks' sessions didn't address the dangers of co-sleeping but focused on the grieving process.

In the state's closing arguments Dale Summa states the evidence shows there isn't any question that Vanessa Clark was sleeping in the same bed with her two-month-old-son Tristan at the time of his death.

Summa argued that the conduct of allowing the child to sleep in an adult-sized bed with his parents placed the infant in imminent danger, which ultimately caused the two-month-old's death.

Summa said the 2009 death of Clarks' son, Christian, is a key fact in determining the recklessness of Vanessa Clark in relation to Tristan's death in 2010.

Summa said Clark can't use the excuse "I didn't know," because after the death of Christian, she received information about the risks of co-sleeping.

The defense responded arguing the bond between a mother and child is the strongest bond a woman will ever know.

Reeves started with a quote from Dr. Suess, "Don't cry because its over, smile because it happened." He said this is how Vanessa Clark would have to view the short life of her son, Tristan Clark.

Reeves goes on to argue that there is no law that says you can't sleep with your children. Also that the information Clark received from CPS didn't say not to co-sleep, but offered safety guidelines to follow for co-sleeping.

"Every ounce of her went into preserving life," said Reeves.

He says Clark followed the rules as best she could, but argued if she is found guilty other parents who don't follow all suggested safety guidelines should be arrested.

According to Reeves, the case is not there, because it hasn't shown a violation of Texas law.

In the state's final argument, Summa argued that his case focuses on proving two-month-old Tristan was placed in imminent danger.

"It may not be illegal to sleep with your child but it is illegal to put your child in imminent danger," said Summa.

He argued that even after the death of Christian in 2009, nothing kept her from sleeping with Tristan.

"Some people never listen, some people never learn," said Soma.

The jury began deliberating around 10:40 a.m.

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