AURORA, Colorado — Two years after a seven-month-old baby boy died, his three-month-old brother died under similar circumstances.
Felony child abuse charges have been recommended against the boys’ parents.
According to KDVR, Arapahoe County prosecutors are considering whether unsafe sleeping habits contributed to the boys’ deaths.
Seven-month-old Azyian Newton died on July 9th, 2014.
Three-month-old Nazairean Newton died on June 29th, 2016.
The autopsy for both baby boys listed the cause of death as undetermined, but the Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office report mentions unsafe sleeping habits in both cases, noting, “the decedent was placed to sleep in an adult bed with both parents who had reportedly been using alcohol and marijuana.”
Arapahoe County Coroner Dr. Kelly C. Lear-Kaul, who performed both autopsies, believes the children died from suffocation, and that each boy likely had their airways blocked while sleeping in bed with their parents.
“I believe that’s the most likely cause. I can’t prove that. Asphyxial deaths don’t leave any marks in most cases so there’s nothing for me to see at autopsy,” Lear-Kaul told KDVR.
So if a death is ruled undetermined, can someone still be prosecuted for that death?
Arapahoe Chief Deputy District Attorney Leora Joseph told KDVR: “Absolutely.”
The boys’ father, 27-year-old Tyler Newton and the boys’ mother, 28-year-old Tierra Collins were not prosecuted after the death of seven-month-old Azyian — but a charging decision hasn’t yet been made after the death of three-month-old Nazairean.
“Our obligation is always to seek justice and sometimes that means justice for people who can’t speak,” Joseph told KDVR.
Joseph did note though, that co-sleeping cases are difficult to prosecute.
“Can we say beyond a reasonable doubt but for the co-sleeping, this child would still be alive?” Joseph said.
According to KDVR, in a videotaped interview police did with Tyler Newton in 2014, he admitted sleeping with his baby between himself and girlfriend Collins — and said it was a habit.
“I put him right in between, I put him in the middle and then I laid with him — how we lay every day and, you know, we went to sleep,” Newton said.
Newton later told the same detective how haunted he was by the memory of his son not waking up.
“I will never get that out of my head, just holding him in my arms and trying to get him up. ‘Hey,’ you know, ‘hey man wake up dude,'” an emotional Newton said.
According to KDVR, Collins was arrested for DUI in September and was approached at a December court hearing to ask about the deaths of her two sons.
“I’d give my life to have my babies back. I love my kids and I was doing the best that I thought I could do for my kids. I did not do anything criminally wrong,” said Collins, who added she was put on a three-day suicide watch at a hospital after the death of her second son.
Fifty-four babies died in Colorado 2015 as a result of unsafe sleeping habits or co-sleeping with their parents.
Officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment stress that the safest sleeping environment for babies is ALONE, on their back, in a crib.