Sharon Ballek, the owner of a shuttered Pennsylvania day care, will face criminal charges after an unsupervised 3-month-old baby died during her first day staying there.
A grand jury has charged Ballek with child endangerment after the baby died at Sharon's Day Care in Lehigh Township, Pennsylvania, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli announced on April 25, according to The Associated Press.
The infant, McKenna Rose Felmly, was reportedly placed face down in her crib for a nap during an April 2016 visit, notes Lehigh Valley Live. Placing babies face-down for a nap is a violation of day care regulations in the state.
The caretaker then allegedly left the room for approximately 25 minutes and returned to find the girl not breathing and unresponsive. Her lips were reportedly blue. A different employee performed CPR on her until emergency responders arrived and transported her to the hospital, where she was declared dead.
Four days after the infant died, regulators from the state ordered the center to be shut down due to what they called "gross incompetence, negligence and misconduct."
During the initial investigation, prosecutors also considered involuntary manslaughter charges, Morganelli said.
"I started looking at it a couple of days ago and decided we need to dig deeper into what happened," he said in August 2016. "We're going to put it before the grand jury to bring some of the folks in and question them in more detail. I think the grand jury process will be the best way to flush out information so I can make a decision one way or the other."
Up until the early 1990s, it was the norm for parents to place newborns to sleep on their stomachs, in the belief it would help them sleep and breathe better. But stomach sleeping correlates with many cases of sudden infant death syndrome, including cases of strangulation and suffocation in bed, notes American Baby.
Although some moms still allow their babies to sleep on their stomachs, experts do not recommend it, even for fussy sleepers.
"It's true, babies do wake up more easily when they're on their back," said Dr. Rachel Moon, director of academic development at Washington, D.C.'s Children's National Health System and chair of the AAP's task force on SIDS, according to American Baby. "But that may actually protect them from SIDS. Infants who sleep on their stomach don't arouse as well, which means they can get in trouble with their oxygen levels and never wake up."