Woman accused of smothering baby while drunk, high

Arissa Ward (Dauphin County Prison)

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (WHTM) – A Dauphin County woman has been arrested for the smothering death of her infant son last year.

Arissa K. Ward, 23, of Middletown, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child.

Ward’s 2-month-old son was found dead Dec. 30 at a home in the 300 block of Lawrence Street. She told investigators she drank alcohol and smoked marijuana before falling asleep with the baby on a couch, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday.

“When you choose to sleep with your child, there is a danger that a tragedy could happen,” Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said.

“We’re just using this as an opportunity to implore folks please follow the advice of the pediatrician. When you’re at the hospital and the child is born, they ask you not to go sleep,” Dauphin County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Gettle said.

An autopsy confirmed the death was “caused by complications of traumatic asphyxia combined with smothering.”

Marsico said the baby had 0.65 nanograms of marijuana in his system from his mother’s breast milk.

“Because she was breastfeeding her child, the child had marijuana in his system,” Marsico said. “Despite whatever debate there is about marijuana legalization, I think we can all agree that for a two-month-old infant to be ingesting it is not a good thing.”

Ward was arraigned before a district judge and released on $50,000 unsecured bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 1.

“You can’t in these situations engage in activity which is going to lead to a tragedy and ultimately in this case to criminal charges,” Marsico said.

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