An investigation into the death of a 10-month-old boy in rural Barron County on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019, has determined it was a “tragic accident,” and will not be prosecuted as a crime, District Attorney Brian Wright announced Thursday, Sept. 26.
The investigation determined the baby accidentally suffocated while sleeping next to his parents and twin sister, the announcement said.
Wright made a decision not to prosecute after reviewing investigative reports, photos and video of the home where the death took place, and results of an autopsy performed by a forensic pathologist.
According to Wright, the parents, Wayburn J. Stang and Ashleigh A. Tomesh, called 911 from their rural Rice Lake home to report their infant son was not breathing.
Barron County Sheriff’s deputies responded along with the Bear Lake-Haugen First Responders, Lakeview Medical Center ambulance and Lifelink helicopter.
According to Wright’s report, the mother was awakened at 3:30 a.m. by the babies at about the time she would normally breastfeed them. The infants and their parents were all lying on the same futon at the time. The mother fed both infants and, at some point, fell asleep. When she awakened, the mother noticed the infant boy wasn’t moving or making any sounds. She said she remembered seeing a small corner of a blanket lying on the infant’s face when she first saw him after she awakened.
She woke up her husband and told him to call 911 as the child was not breathing. The 911 dispatcher gave the father instructions on how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The father placed the child on the floor and performed CPR until first responders arrived. Both parents were grief stricken when they were told the first responders had done everything they could, Wright added.
He said the incident “is a sad reminder that parents should be mindful of the risks of co-sleeping with an infant.”
Wright said the American Academy of Pediatrics has published recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment, which “encourage room-sharing, but discourage bed sharing and the avoidance of soft bedding.”
The recommendations are “particularly for the infant’s first six months and, ideally for the first year of life,” Wright said. “It is also recommended that infants who are brought into bed for feeding or comforting should be returned to their own crib or bassinet when the parent is ready to return to sleep.”