Vanessa Clark: Second SIDS Death in a Year Leads to Child Endangerment Conviction

Categories: Crime

vanessa clark.jpg
Angelina County Jail
Vanessa Clark beams for the camera in this June 2011 mugshot taken in connection with death of infant son Tristan 11 months earlier.
A Lufkin woman has been convicted of felony child endangerment after an infant died in her bed for the second time in a span of two calendar years.

Yesterday afternoon an Angelina County jury handed down a guilty verdict against Vanessa Clark, 33, for her role in the death of her two-month-old son Tristan on July 9, 2010. She told paramedics on the scene that the baby had died while sleeping in the bed he was sharing with Clark and husband Mark Clark.

She was indicted in connection with Tristan's death in June of 2011, after it came to light that the Clarks had lost a one-month-old son named Christian in 2009 in a nearly identical manner.

According to testimony in Clark's trial, after the demise of the first baby, CPS workers warned Clark in no uncertain terms about the dangers of co-sleeping: Infants can be suffocated accidentally by their parents or in the folds of their bedding and pillows.

Prosecutor Dale Summa told the court that because of that earlier tragedy, the Clarks should have known better than to risk a repeat, and by letting Tristan sleep in their bed, they were placing the boy in imminent danger, thus rising to the legal threshold of child endangerment in Texas criminal law.

Defense attorney John Reeves riposted that CPS did not expressly warn the Clarks against co-sleeping with Tristan under any circumstances but instead coached them on how to do it more safely. Reeves also contended that there is no law against sleeping with your children.

"It may not be illegal to sleep with your child, but it is illegal to put your child in imminent danger," countered Summa, and the jury apparently agreed with Summa's definition of "imminent danger." Clark, the bleach-blond locks and sunny smile of her mugshot now gone, reportedly trembled as the verdict was read.

She could face two years in state jail for the felony conviction, and Summa has said that he plans to try Mark Clark on the same charges soon.

Since elevated levels of hydrocodone and Xanax were found in her blood, and several jars of (legally prescribed) pills were found on her nightstand, Vanessa Clark faces mandatory drug testing while she waits at home for sentencing.

The court is compiling a pre-sentencing report, and there is a lot of grist for that mill in Angelina County records. In addition to several theft and drug convictions, Clark was convicted of aggravated assault and sentenced to four years in prison back in 2000, though she was released through shock probation after serving less than a year. She hasn't kept her nose entirely clean since then, but the frequency and magnitude of the arrests on her rap sheet have both dwindled. Since getting out of prison, she's only piled up a couple of hot check busts and a shoplifting case.

Since the verdict hinged on an intriguing definition of "imminent danger," we're thinking we haven't seen the last of this case.

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123 comments
kids clothing
kids clothing

Here are things you need to look into before purchasing that pillow or swiping that credit card of yours. I believe they are worth the read and you’ll get to choose based on various factors.

timber decking
timber decking

On some models the back unfolds too. Other versions incorporate a tailored duvet or quilt as a sofa cover, under which your guests can happily sleep.

playmobil advent calendar
playmobil advent calendar

Hammocks and other swinging devices should not be installed onto a crib because the baby may be strangled.

Kim232
Kim232

Hello, 2 babies died.....she still free, has had sentence yet been 3 mts. No drug test......I feel for babies. .parent making all kids money going NY inside edition, talk bout babies dieing. I wouldn't tk any amount of money I'd want my babies bk. Vet self centered parents. Sad, sad. And country nt doing nothing.

lausii
lausii

I have co slept with all of my 5 children. I did it responsibly. I didn't smoke, drink or do drugs. I do not live in a third world country, I co slept as its what I deemed what was best for myself and my children. The woman in question did not follow safe co sleeping guidelines.

kids dresses
kids dresses

If you can't check the fit ahead of time, find out about your baby store's mattress return policy, so you're not stuck with a mattress that isn't safe with your crib.

chef.summer
chef.summer

I feel sorry for the to poor children that won't get to live.

If it happens once they WHY do it again 

BreeAnna M
BreeAnna M

Really?  I am all for co-sleeping. When it is what works best for both parent and kid. But under no circumstances is it okay if you have been taking pills that could effect your sleeping and awareness levels, alcohol, and illegal drugs.  She should be convicted of at least man-slaughter. Given that it is the 2nd time she had killed her baby doing the same thing. 

Becky Gibson
Becky Gibson

What a dork!! You don't put your baby in bed with you if you drink and do drugs!!! This is outrageous! And she has done it TWICE! If the mother was loving and caring, she would not have been drinking or using drugs whe.n she did this. This infuriates me

Becky Gibson
Becky Gibson

Very irresponsible parent...killed both of her children by rolling over on them. Where was her consciousness level, since she was on alcohol and drugs. She probably was in a VERY, deep, drugged sleep and did the most horrific thing. Will she ever get over this? I don't think she deserves children. ,

cat
cat

I don't know about anyone else but I slept with my newborn almost every night, when she moved I woke up, when she made the slightest sound I woke up. It's not sleeping with your baby that is dangerous, its ignoring the signs that your baby might be in trouble. Prescription drugs possibly aided in the mother not waking to the warning signs.

FED UP BLACK WOMAN
FED UP BLACK WOMAN

Please if you do not have common sense and are spoil brat to allow your baby to sleep with you, and then it is your fault the baby died. You are an idiot. All I can say. Sorry

Kfiser2005
Kfiser2005

Ok..one..why is it just the mother who is being prosecuted? Wasn't the father there too?    two...if the first death was determined to be SIDS why would she change her habits with the next child..maybe keeping the baby close was a comfort to fear of losing another.? just sayin    Three...The picture ..any snap shot ..can be  misinterpreted who knows what preceded that instant.    four...From what I understand of this case...which is not by any means complete..this is not a case for co-sleeping to be on trial.  Co-sleeping isn't the cause of the death of this child. By their own admission they don't know what the cause of death is. Maybe it really was SIDS..maybe not but there have to be extenuating circumstances for it to be co-sleeping. five..this particular case (and others were children are at risk) just really strikes at the heart of most parents. Nothing is more emotionally provocative than children at risk. But many responses to such cases is borderline hysteria . 

Larryhjerpe10
Larryhjerpe10

Since there were medications sleep medications possibly in her blood this could have gotten in the babies Brest milk if still breast fed.

Hallauer1
Hallauer1

She looks quite happy for a woman who lost two children.

Fidlpwnr
Fidlpwnr

Bottom line, nobody said there is any fail-proof way to raise your kids. But getting treatment for drug addictions would be a great start. Co-sleeping is part of good mothering. Don't let society  take this intimate and healthy practice away from Mothers because of the mistakes of jumkies.

naturalmama
naturalmama

According to Dr. Sears, co-sleeping is a POSITIVE for mother and baby when breastfeeding. The constant nursing helps keep the mother aware and the airways open for the newborn. It's actually believed to help reduce SIDS. That's why it is now recommened to put your baby to sleep with a paci (I nursed instead) because the way the tongue wraps around it helps keep the airway open. Co-sleeping is actually recommened IF done right and neither parent is on any kind of medication. My son slept with for the first 11 months and only went to his crib because he's a bed hog :) and likes his own space now :)

miranda
miranda

where are all of these babies everyone "knows" that are dying sleeping in their parents' bed? I work for the health department and it is frankly not true. Sober, breastfeeding moms do NOT smother their babies. It is usually another caretaker who falls alseep on the couch or a chair, or someone was drunk/high. She was popping pills, it's not the same as a tired mom sleeping.

Jshillingcol
Jshillingcol

This was such a tradegy... I understand mothers wanna be close too the infants while they sleep. But, thats why they make cribs,bassanets,pack& plays... So, accidents like this doesn't happen. The first time I could agree would have been partially an accident, she could have rolled over on baby or baby could have fallen off bed.. but, this is the second child she has lost in a 24 month period.. a whole separate occurance of puttig another infant in the bed too sleep with you know that your first child passed away that way.. you would have thought as a grown adult.. a parent she would have learned.. not too do it again.. I don't believe this is an accident I think she should spend her time.. thats 2 deaths.. she should.get 2 whole sentences for longtime....

Tdarling81
Tdarling81

What's wrong here is not that she had drugs in her system, it's that she brought that baby in her bed.  I know many parents who have lost their babies while in their bed and NONE of them were on drugs or alcohol.  This baby should have never been in the bed especially since her first child died on her bed as well.  This really shouldn't be called a SIDS death either.  It should be called what is really is(as well as many others that are called SIDS).  It's a death from suffocation.  Now she's going to jail simply because she didn't listen and took the baby in bed with her.  Bed sharing is never safe and always has a high risk.  Research has shown that keeping a baby in your room, but in their own bed free from pillows, blankets, bumpers, toys, ect.. are the safest way and healthiest for your baby.  This mom should have listened to CPS and her child would still be alive and she would not be in jail.  

Worm
Worm

DA wouldn't have charged her if she was rich.

adarc
adarc

I think this had more to do with her being responsible for the care of a infant and being blissed on Xanax.

guestmomoftwo
guestmomoftwo

the other question they havent raised yet: how old were the children when they died? SIDS is more typical in babies below 12 weeks of age... Besides, numerous studies prove that co-sleeping is safe. Unless of course people are under the influence of drugs, meds, etc..

bemk78
bemk78

I think the article should put more emphasis on the fact that she was UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF NARCOTICS. There are ways to bed-share safely, and the first rule is to not have taken drugs that affect sleep, alcohol, etc. I don't think it's fair to criminalize co-sleeping (strictly, bedsharing) based on the actions of these irresponsible parents.

takurospirit
takurospirit

Once again a drugged out junkie giving co-sleeping a bad name. Safe co-sleeping means you're sober. I've co-slept with two children. One is now 3, the other close to 1. It can be done.

If you'd look at all these anti co-sleeping stories you'd find the majority of deaths involve intoxicated parents. Or people doing it completely incorrectly - with baby on couch, on a chair, in a bed with 5 giant pillows, etc. Also how many babies have died in cribs? Compare that to co-sleeping then see if you want to continue your witch hunt.

LRH
LRH

Co-sleeping is not only dangerous, it's perverted. Children & adults don't belong in the same bed. I don't care what fuddy-duddy cultures practice it. How are the parents supposed to be intimate with each other? How can a parent be such a wuss they can't make their kids sleep in their own bed where they belong? Are they that spineless? Understand: I do NOT agree with the government getting involved in parents' bedrooms, but it's still perverted. In this case, the parent killed not 1 but 2 kids by practicing co-sleeping. Just people are just so determined to go the perverted path.

Rachel Soumokil
Rachel Soumokil

One of the main precepts of co-sleeping is that the parent CANNOT be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  She's an idiot and should have known better. 

The Watcher
The Watcher

Hope this dumb Cunt and husband go to jail...

Merripeterson
Merripeterson

Omg! Dingbat! Those poor sweet little babies : (

Jodi
Jodi

Does anyone know why her husband was not also charged?  The article said the baby was sleeping with both of them in the bed.  Wouldn't they both be responsible?

Fare_un_giro
Fare_un_giro

 co-sleeping is safe.  Co-sleeping when the baby has it's own crib or bassinet in the parents room.  Bed sharing is not safe.  I know too many people who have angel babies because of bed sharing.  I really believe this should have been called a death as what it really was, from suffocation.  Suffocation and SIDS are not the same thing. 

Shawna Kagey
Shawna Kagey

i have read that a child as old as 12-14 months can die from sids

LRH
LRH

To the ones who replied: yes, I have kids, & they not once have even slept in our ROOM, much less in the bed, not even when they were infants. It has been established as a firm "no no" right up there with darting into the street. If they cried during naptime, we did the "Ferber" method & let them cry it out. Yes we bond with them & play with them a lot, but they understand boundaries, that our home is child-LOVING but it is not child CENTERED, there is a difference. If we are on the couch cuddling & wanting to have a few moments of "couples time" talking etc, they're trained to LEAVE US ALONE while we're doing this.

And they're doing fine--they jump up with excitement when they see us & we spend all kinds of time with them, but when we retire to the bedroom or want "couch time," they respect that boundary, as they well SHOULD. Our marriage comes FIRST in our house. The same goes for any kids who stay overnight, too--if they can't respect that, they're not allowed over here.

Ziannelyn
Ziannelyn

 you obviously don't have kids the last thing new parents want to do is screw around and a fun fact women bleed for up to 3 months after a baby is born most men would back off that.

jw
jw

perverted? um something is wrong with YOU aif you think that way, 

Linby275
Linby275

WTF is wrong with you--you obviously have a perverted mind to even think this way.

Cap
Cap

Are you ALWAYS intimate in your own bed and nowhere else? What a boring sex life. People who cosleep manage being intimate just fine.

Chris417
Chris417

OMG.... you are a total idiot.  I seriously hope you did not reproduce.

Symphonygal2000
Symphonygal2000

 Thanks for the sexist comment asshole. This should offend every woman who reads it, JOANNE!

NoOneUknow
NoOneUknow

Please read the article completely before commenting."...and Summa has said that he plans to try Mark Clark on the same charges soon."

momma
momma

there goes the next generation of self-centered bunch sociopathic people. 

Bebe4evr5
Bebe4evr5

im a woman and not offended...she is a dumb cunt.

EIBRAN
EIBRAN

"giving it to them good?" What does that mean? That your children sit quietly for extended periods and eat their food without complaint is not necessarily a sign that you're doing something right. It might be a sign that they're scared of you and know that if they don't do these things they'll get beaten.

Fidlpwnr
Fidlpwnr

Wait. Now I want to sit in bed with my kids and eat Chinese food.

So wierd.

joanne
joanne

YOU are weird parents is what u are and i am glad that i dont know u!

Dessta
Dessta

I am consistently complimented on how well-behaved my children are, and I allowed co-sleeping with both of them.  My children didn't co-sleep with me because I am a lazy parent who doesn't know how to set and enforce limits.  My children co-slept with me because it takes a strange person to tell their children all day long that they can't cross the street without mommy, and they can't use daddy's cell phone, and they can't do this or that or the other because they aren't grown up yet, but the minute it gets dark out, we tell them they are "big" enough to be alone in their room and shouldn't be scared or want their parents.  Children are helpless and dependent, and look to their parents for everything.  It is not perverted to provide a sense of security and companionship to them at night.  By the way, the next time you generalize with an "everyone with kids who co-sleeps", you better rethink it.  You don't KNOW all the people who co-sleep, so you only look stupid making such statements.

LRH is deluded
LRH is deluded

 LRH- You sound like you raise your children with a firm hand, and that's your choice so long as your children are healthy and happy, keep doing what you are doing.  My kids can come to me anytime because they are just that; children and need nurturing.  We also get compliments on how well behaved they are, take them to church and sit there for the whole service which is almost 2 hours with adults and are well behaved and quiet, do not eat McDonald's but do eat a variety of food, in fact most of our compliments come from restaurants.  My kids slept/sleep in bassinets, cribs, youth beds, and GASP my bed!  I am not a pervert, I am a parent who wants her children to not be afraid of interrupting something they don't even understand.  My husband and I have a great relationship, plenty of intimacy, just not when the kids are in the room.  But if you think having a sick child sleeping alone in another room and your wife getting up all night to check on said child or lay next to them in their room is preferable so you can stand on a soap box to all of us, that's your prerogative, let's hope your kids remember a loving home and not an authoritative, dictatorship.  Or if your child is sick in the other room because that is the law of your house and they cannot interrupt your cuddle time, I think your some kind of freak for being able to be intimate when your child needs you.  Maybe you shouldn't throw so many stones when you set yourself up in a glass house.  Your wife probably can't breathe without your permission and I bet your kids rebel wildly as teens.  Just making a bunch of wild accusations and assumptions since that seems to be acceptable to you.

Arihillfarm
Arihillfarm

You can raise children to be like that without having them cry it out, made to be second class citizens in their own home and banished to rooms by themselves AND have a great marriage to go along with it.  Unfortunately, it takes more time and effort than most parents seem to want to give.

LRH
LRH

(momma) If you say so. Fact is, we're able to go to church & have them sit in the pews and they will absolutely remain still & quiet the ENTIRE TIME, even when it's 30-45 minutes. People have even complimented us on it--not that we're perfect, no one is, but that's the truth just the same. We can take them to eat Chinese food, and they eat what we give them without complaint. Everyone with kids who co-sleeps--they're in church not even 30 seconds & they're climbing the walls. The same kids throw a fit in the same Chinese restaurant because their parents won't cater to their whims & fill them up on "Happy Meals." I see those parents bargaining with them ASKING them to be quiet rather than giving it to them good for being brats. Again, we are NOT PERFECT, but we must be doing SOMETHING right.

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