Lancaster Co. mother charged after baby dies while sleeping in her bed

FULTON TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- A Lancaster County woman is charged in the death of her own infant son, and police said this isn't the first child to die in her care.

Jessica Harper, 28, is facing charges, including criminal homicide and endangering the welfare of children, after her 2-month-old son was found smothered to death.

Police said the baby died from co-sleeping at Jessica Harper's home in Fulton Township. The baby was sleeping in between Harper and her 3-year-old daughter on the bed.

Officials said Harper was told by doctors the dangers of co-sleeping multiple times.

"Almost every direction you look, she had to know about this and chose to disregard the risk and now we've got a two-month-old who is dead."

This is Harper's second 2-month-old baby that died from asphyxiation.

In 2011 Harper was charged with child abuse after her 2-month-old baby boy died on a living room couch in Maryland. In that case, she ended up pleading guilty to a lesser charge. But the district attorney doesn't want that to happen again.

Stedman said, "You've already lost one kid from positional asphyxia and it's absolutely outrageous conduct that you don't take extra care with another one."

Although this isn't the first time a baby has died in Harper's care, this is the first time the district attorney is charging someone under these circumstances.

"These are unique charges. I'm unaware as far as I can remember filing charges like this," Stedman said.

He said the deaths may not have been intentional, but it was an example of reckless disregard for her babies' lives.

"She was told not to do this and she said she was going to do it anyway. I think it was a week or six days before the death and that's particularly disturbing," he said.

Officials said the father was at home but not sleeping in the bed.

Harper has five other children. Local social services are involved in the care of those children.

Harper is in the Lancaster County jail where she is held without bail.