A Michigan mother has been charged with involuntary manslaughter after authorities say she drank alcohol one night in December and then slept in the same bed as her baby, who suffocated when he became “wedged” between the bed and the wall.
Leslie Neuman, 32, turned herself in to authorities on Monday in connection with the co-sleeping death of her 6-month-old son, Connor Kleemann, in December. She is charged with involuntary manslaughter and child abuse — charges that her attorney argues are too severe, despite the judge noting Neuman was previously warned not to sleep in the same bed as her child.
“She’s been going through hell since this baby died,” Maggie Cotant says of Neuman. “It’s a tragic, horrible accident. It’s a punishment in and of itself that she has to live with forever. They made it sound like she did this horrible thing.”
In a statement, Wayne County, Michigan, Prosecutor Kym Worthy said, “it is alleged that Neuman placed the infant in the bed with her that created an unsafe sleep situation resulting the death of her child. The specific facts and evidence in the case will be placed on the record at the preliminary examination.” Worthy has described cases like this as unnecessary deaths, according to MLive.com.
“There are babies in this county dying that should not be dying,” she previously said in a statement after a child died under similar circumstances. “Unsafe sleep practices can be just as fatal to a baby as a gun or knife.”
Cotant says Neuman and her sister were drinking at home while eating leftovers from Christmas dinner on Dec. 29. The pair each had about four beers and a shot of hard liquor between 3 p.m. and 11 p.m., when they went to bed, Cotant says. “[The drinking] occurred over this long period of time,” she says. “They make it sound like she was this alcoholic, drunk person who went to bed wasted with her baby. But in reality, they have no idea.”
Neuman took her infant son to bed with her that night because he had a cold and she was afraid she wouldn’t hear his cries at night, Cotant says. When Neuman woke up hours later, the boy was unresponsive. “She saw his face turned toward the wall and the bed,” Cotant says. “She tried to revive him. She tried to give him mouth-to-mouth. When it wasn’t working, she started screaming and screaming.”
The family called 911 and officers arrived at about 6 a.m. on Dec. 30. Connor was taken to the hospital, where he died. The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office said the child’s cause of death was asphyxiation due to “bedsharing.” The death was ruled an accident.
“We believe that the infant got wedged between the bed and the wall and suffocated,” says Livonia, Michigan, police Capt. Robert Nenciarini, who commands the department’s investigative division.
Neuman was released from custody after posting $100,000 bond and will appear in court again on Sept. 28. Cotant had unsuccessfully argued for her to be released without bail.
Shortly after Connor was born, an anonymous medical worker filed a complaint with Child Protective Services, saying it appeared as if Neuman was going through some sort of drug withdrawal, Cotant says. Neuman was told at a CPS program for mothers not to sleep in the same bed with her child, along with other safety tips. Cotant also says Neuman had sought help from a drug and alcohol treatment center when she was pregnant.
Neuman has two older children, who are 8 and 10 years old, according to Cotant. Both kids are now in their father’s custody.
Cotant — who will argue that Neuman is not guilty — says Neuman has already suffered after both losing her baby and custody of her other children over the accident.
“I’m supposed to stay objective and professional, and I do the best I can do at that, but it’s really hard in this case,” the attorney says. “This is a person who has been punished enough. She really, truly is a good mom.”
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