A mother has been charged with involuntary manslaughter after her baby died when she co-slept with him while under the influence of alcohol.
In December last year, Leslie Neuman, 32, of Michigan, took her baby, six-month-old Connor Kleemann, to bed with her after drinking beer and "a shot of hard liquor". During the night, the little boy suffocated after he became "wedged" between the bed and the wall.
Ms Neuman has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree child abuse, PEOPLE reports, noting that her lawyer, Maggie Cotant, believes the charges are too severe for the grieving mother.
"She's been going through hell since this baby died," Ms Cotant told PEOPLE. "It's a tragic, horrible accident. It's a punishment in and of itself that she has to live with forever. They made it sound like she did this horrible thing."
In a statement provided to PEOPLE, Wayne County, Michigan, Prosecutor Kym Worthy said, "It is alleged that Neuman placed the infant in the bed with her that created an unsafe sleep situation resulting in the death of her child."
According to Ms Cotant, Ms Neuman and her sister were drinking at home on 29 December 2016. They each consumed "four beers and a shot of hard liquor" in the hours between 3pm and 11pm. "[The drinking] occurred over this long period of time," Ms Cotant said. "They make it sound like she was this alcoholic, drunk person who went to bed wasted with her baby. But in reality, they have no idea."
Ms Cotant also explained that Ms Neuman had taken her baby to bed with her that night because he had a cold. She later woke to find Connor's face turned towards the wall and the bed.
"She tried to revive him," Ms Cotant said. "She tried to give him mouth-to-mouth. When it wasn't working, she started screaming and screaming."
Connor was later pronounced dead in hospital.
"Our investigation reveals that the baby went to bed with his mum at 11 o'clock, the night prior, in her bed in her bedroom," Livonia, Michigan, police Captain Robert Nenciarini, told Fox News.
"We believe that the infant got wedged between the bed and the wall and suffocated. We tell you do not sleep with your baby, and this is why you do not do that."
Nenciarini acknowledged that Ms Neuman had been "co-operative". "She turned herself in," he said. "She told us exactly what happened."
After previously being reported to Child Protective Services for concerns related to her drug and alcohol use, Ms Neuman attended a CPS program where she was told not to co-sleep with her baby. She also signed a document stating that she would no longer bed-share with her infant.
"I'm supposed to stay objective and professional, and I do the best I can do at that, but it's really hard in this case," Ms Cotant said. "This is a person who has been punished enough. She really, truly is a good mum."
Ms Neuman's two older children, aged eight and ten, are now in the custody of their father.
According to Red Nose, sharing a sleep surface with a baby can increase the risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI), including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and fatal sleep accidents. The risks are higher if parents smoke or are under the influence of alcohol or drugs (including prescription medication), which impact their ability to respond to their baby.
The organisation notes:"Red Nose recommends that the safest place for a baby to sleep is in a cot next to the parents' bed for the first six to twelve months of life as this has been shown to reduce the risk of SUDI, including SIDS and fatal sleeping accidents."
Additionally, if parents smoke, drink alcohol, take drugs or medication, Red Nose advises: "Your baby will have a lower risk of sudden unexpected death if he or she sleeps on a separate surface such as a cot next to your bed."
Find more information on evidence-based safe sleeping practices here.