WINTER HAVEN (FOX 13) — Polk County deputies have arrested a Winter Haven woman after they say “horrific negligence” while co-sleeping with her newborn boy led to his death — almost identical circumstances to the death of her first infant several years ago.
Erin Piche-Pitts, 25, now faces an aggravated manslaughter charge in the October death of her 18-day-old baby Javier. She was arrested Tuesday.
“I’ve seen these cases before,” Sheriff Grady Judd said Wednesday. “The first one is a horrible, tragic event in life. The second is a horrible, tragic loss of life of an infant, but she was irresponsible, and as a result, she’s got two dead babies. It’s time for her to go to prison.”
The sheriff said it was back in 2009 when another newborn died under similar circumstances while in her care.
“Erin fell asleep in her bed while breastfeeding the baby,” a sheriff’s office spokesperson explained. “When Erin awoke, the baby was unresponsive, and pronounced deceased by medical personnel at the hospital.”
That baby was just 13 days old when she died. Her cause of death was ruled asphyxia “due to probable overlay and co-sleeping” and the manner of death was ruled an accident.
In March 2016, Piche-Pitts found herself pregnant again.
During both the 2009 and 2016 pregnancies, the sheriff’s office said Piche-Pitts had face-to-face counseling with a Florida Department of Health employee through the Healthy Starts program. During that counseling, the dangers of sleeping in the same bed as your baby, and the importance of infants being placed on their backs to sleep, were explained to the young mother-to-be.
Piche-Pitts’ mother told investigators that she, too, had conversations with her about being more cautious with the new baby.
PCSO said that after the baby’s birth on September 18, 2016, medical professionals had spoken with Piche-Pitts on multiple occasions to ensure that she would not sleep in the same bed with the newborn.
Investigators say the Piche-Pitts assured her doctor she would not engage in co-sleeping.
However on October 6, Piche-Pitts allegedly awoke to her 18-day-old infant crying. She told detectives that she prepared a bottle and took the baby boy from the bassinet located next to her bed. She sat in her bed with the baby propped up by a pillow, with his head in the crook of her arm.
But, similar to the incident in 2009, Piche-Pitts fell asleep. According to the affidavit, when she awoke two-and-a-half hours later, she discovered her baby boy unresponsive.
The sheriff’s office said that due to the “multiple warnings on the dangers of co-sleeping and multiple face-to-face counseling sessions,” detectives determined probable cause existed to charge Piche-Pitts with aggravated manslaughter of a child.
Piche-Pitts has a criminal history dating back to 2005 which includes a charge from July, when she was pregnant, for possession of methamphetamine.
“This lady doesn’t get it,” Sheriff Judd offered. “This is a very, very sad situation that these children died.”
While the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact for babies, they recommend against co-sleeping. The sheriff did not hold back about his feelings on co-sleeping, warning that others parents could be charged if their children die in similar circumstances.
“Do not co-sleep with an infant,” he insisted. “Co-sleeping with infants is just an absolute no.”