W.Va. woman pleads guilty to smothering her son

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A West Virginia woman today pleaded guilty to assault and related charges after authorities said she smothered her infant son last year at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Rachel Nelson, 23, of Costa, pleaded guilty to one count each of aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of a child before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Anthony M. Mariani. She is scheduled for sentencing Sept. 5.

Ms. Nelson also could face additional charges in West Virginia, where the boy now lives with his father.

Authorities there are working to indict her on charges she tried to suffocate her son 13 times in that state, said Mike Manko, a spokesman for the Allegheny County District Attorney's office.

Ms. Nelson was accused of trying to smother her then-4-month-old son while he was a patient at Children's Hospital, where police said the boy was transferred in October for "repeated episodes of apnea and hypoxia and concerns of medical child abuse."

Detectives said they believed the boy had been smothered numerous times in West Virginia between August and October and at least twice after he was admitted to Children's Hospital.

Ms. Nelson told detectives she blacked out during some of the episodes when her son stopped breathing -- but later told them she was lucid and remembered holding her son to her chest until she felt him go limp, police said.

On Oct. 19, the boy's father woke up in the hospital room to find the infant blue and not breathing. He told police Ms. Nelson was the only person awake in the hospital room at the time.

The staff revived the boy, transferred him to another unit and later discovered him again limp and breathing abnormally. Video surveillance showed Ms. Nelson was alone in the room with her son at the time and "blocking the view" of the boy, investigators wrote in a criminal complaint.

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @borntolede. First Published July 15, 2013 12:15 AM


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