ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Even to a mental health expert the images are disturbing.
We showed Dr. Cheryl Bemel the surveillance video captured last May at Children's Hospital in St. Paul to find out what she could make of the behavior of 24-year-old Katie Elaine Lewis. The video shows her trying to suffocate her then 5-month-old son in a hospital room by pinching his nose and closing his airway.
What she made of it is what is known as Munchausen by Proxy syndrome.
"This is a woman who is craving attention and also seeking control and she is doing that by proxy, or by observation of her child's ailments that are induced," Dr. Bemel said.
This happened last year when Lewis, now in jail for her crimes, took her son to Children's saying he would stop breathing at times and turn blue.
Tests were run and he was deemed fine by doctors.
Lewis was then sent back into the room with her son, a room that was wired with cameras.
She likely didn't know that when she then closed off her baby boys airway for 45 seconds and then called for help.
That is key in Munchausen by Proxy; play the victim, in this case the mother of a child in need, and then play the hero by calling for nurses.
She created the emergency, and then, made it stop.
Doing it in a hospital setting wasn't an accident.
"The need for doing this in an environment where there are people with authority is very pertinent here, that there is a desire to have control and attention from people in control positions," Dr. Bemel said.
Lewis admitted to investigators she had done this a few times before, starting when her son was three months old.
That only adds more whys in this case and those answers lie only with Katie Elaine Lewis.
But it's very possible, she doesn't know them either.
"I saw a mother who is clearly unable to mother and is hurting her child to the point of destruction," Dr. Bemel said.
Lewis is currently jailed in Ramsey County serving a 120-day sentence. After jail time is served she will be on probation for three years, and during that time will have no unsupervised visits with her child.
Ramsey County authorities say that now 14-month-old boy is fine and living with his father, along with Lewis' other son, who is 4-years-old.
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