Mother headed to trial for infant’s sleeping death

LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) – A Lancaster County woman is headed to trial for the death of her infant son.

Jessica M. Harper, 28, waived a preliminary hearing Oct. 20 on charges of criminal homicide, involuntary manslaughter, and endangering the welfare of a child, according to District Attorney Craig Stedman’s office.

By waiving the hearing, Harper did not admit guilt but conceded prosecutors have enough evidence for a trial.

Prosecutors will pursue a third-degree murder conviction against Harper, who remains in Lancaster County Prison without bail.

Harper’s 2-month-old boy was found dead July 12 at her Fulton Township home. An autopsy determined the boy died of asphyxiation as he slept in a bed with her.

Authorities say Harper ignored repeated warnings not to sleep with her baby.

Harper had another 2-month-old child who died while sleeping in January 2011. That death, in Cecil County, Maryland, was also due to asphyxiation.

When her youngest son was born, police said Lancaster General Hospital made Harper read all safety conditions and sign a form that she acknowledged safe sleeping. She also had to watch a video on safe sleeping before she was discharged from the hospital.

Children and Youth advised her of the dangers of co-sleeping on May 20, and when the baby was admitted to a pediatric hospital in June, Harper was again made to watch a video about safe sleeping. Two nurses also spoke to her about the dangers of co-sleeping, the complaint states.

Police said that Harper’s pediatrician also repeatedly warned her of the dangers of co-sleeping. Six days before her son died, they said she responded to the repeated warnings by saying she was “going to do it anyway.”

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