MINNEAPOLIS - A Minnesota woman has been charged with murder more than four years after the death of her infant son in St. Louis Park.
Ashleigh Jennifer Casey, age 25, was arrested on a warrant and officially charged with second degree murder Tuesday.
The charge dates back to an incident on March 12, 2009 when police were called to a home in St. Louis Park on a report of a baby not breathing. First responders found Casey's three-month-old son laying unresponsive on the basement floor. Despite efforts to perform CPR, the baby was pronounced dead by paramedics.
When questioned Casey told investigators that her son had bowel surgery on March 7 and was allowed to go home March 9. Records show on March 12, she took the baby to the emergency room because he had been fussing and crying all day. The doctors found nothing wrong and she returned home and watched television with her son lying in bed next to her. When the show ended at 9 p.m., she realized the baby wasn't breathing and ran into the basement to get help from other family members, who called 911, according to the criminal complaint filed against her.
Investigators soon learned that on March 3, 2009, the baby stopped breathing and Casey's grandmother, a registered nurse, was able to revive him. Doctors could find no medical reason for him not to breathe on that occasion.
The Hennepin County Medical examiner performed an autopsy after his death, found no medical reason and listed the cause of death as undetermined.
The case was reopened in May of 2013 when a St. Louis Park Police investigator learned that there was a similar incident under investigation involving Casey, this time in Mille Lacs County. Casey had brought her eight-month-old girl to a hospital there several times but doctors could find nothing wrong.
Casey took her baby to the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital for tests, and at about 3 a.m. on May 17, Casey alerted a nurse that her daughter wasn't breathing. The nurse performed CPR and the girl regained consciousness and was quickly sitting up and smiling. That seemed suspicious to the girl's doctor, who thought Casey might be involved.
A child protection investigator interviewed Casey in Mille Lacs County and during the interview, Casey asked numerous questions about Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome. Casey told the investigator she had something like a dream where she put her hand over her daughter's mouth, but maybe it wasn't a dream, the investigator said.
Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome is a mental illness where a caregiver either exaggerates a child's symptoms or causes medical problems for a child in order to gain attention for the caregiver.
When St. Louis Park Police interviewed Casey they say she admitted she had held a blanket over her son's mouth in 2009 until he stopped breathing, and after failing to resuscitate him she ran downstairs for help.
Prosecutors say Casey told investigators she didn't mean to hurt her son and thought he would start breathing again, as he had in the past.
She also admitted to smothering her daughter at Children's Hospital on May 17, 2013.
Mille Lacs County child protection officials are currently overseeing the welfare of Casey's daughter.
Besides the murder charge involving her son, Casey is charged with two counts of assault for smothering her daughter.
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