Infant’s death not caused by SIDS, examiner says

Thursday, April 26, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:23 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome was not the cause of death of a 6-month-old girl whose mother is accused of neglecting her, Boone County Chief Medical Examiner Eddie Adelstein testified Wednesday during day two of a trial charging the infant’s mother with second-degree involuntary manslaughter, first-degree child endangerment and possession of marijuana.

Adelstein said SIDS was not consistent with the death of Deja West, who was found dead two hours after her mother, Nicole West, lay her down for a nap face down on a pillow with a blanket over her body in December 2005. In January 2006, Columbia police charged West because of incriminating statements she made and since the results of an autopsy found that her daughter was killed.

Adelstein said that after conducting an autopsy on the infant Dec. 27, 2005, he concluded that the cause of Deja’s death was suffocation.

SIDS usually involves infants who are 2 to 3 months old and who are found dead after a nap with limited clothing, blankets or pillows in the crib, Adelstein said. Often, he said, SIDS is a diagnosis of exclusion when there is no other explanation for the death.

Adelstein said Deja could not have died from SIDS because she was 6 months old when she died and was placed on a pillow facedown. The room West put her daughter in inside her boyfriend’s apartment was also deemed hazardous because it had multiple pillows and blankets that could have smothered the child.

“The boyfriend’s bedroom is a suspect scene,” Adelstein said. “There were lots of opportunities for a baby to have its breathing altered.”

The defense argued that Deja was strong enough to hold her herself up and move to avoid suffocating. Defense Attorney Jenean Thompson called on Nicole West’s parents, La Verne Hughes and Ronald West, to testify about Deja’s capabilities.

When asked how strong Deja was, Hughes said: “She could raise herself up on her arms.” Thompson showed the jury a cell phone image of a cheerful Deja propping herself up to prove Hughes’ statement. Upon seeing it, West and Hughes cried.

Testimony for the defense will continue at 9 a.m. today in Division I of the 13th Circuit Court.

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