By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK — Sue Snyder, wife of Gov. Rick Snyder, announced her continued support of the Infant Safe Sleep Awareness initiative with the addition of the largest hospital in northern Michigan during a press event Sept. 13 in Traverse City.
“The death of any infant is tragic, but perhaps even more poignant when it was fully preventable.” Snyder said. “The loss reverberates through a family and, very often, the community as well. I hope we can spare every family in Michigan the pain and regret that comes from this.”
Allen Park police investigated the death of an infant Jan. 15 and determined safe sleep conditions were not followed by the parents, after the infant was left in the care of his 12- and 9-year old sisters. They concluded the death of the infant was preventable.
The Dearborn Heights couple — Sahib Al-Asadi, 31, and Outhwaite Julite, 32 — allegedly left the infant in the care of Julite’s children in a separate motel room in the Allen Park Motor Lodge, 14887 Southfield Road, and failed to monitor his condition in any way.
During the arraignment, police said the infant had issues breathing and used a breathing machine 24 hours a day because he was born premature and was recovering from pneumonia. The couple told police they were moving from Detroit to Dearborn Heights and rented separate rooms because they didn’t want to smoke around the infant.
The family occupied the motel for three days before the incident occurred. The six-month-old infant was discovered by his 12-year-old sister, lying on his stomach with a blanket covering his head.
Al-Asadi, allegedly left the motel and did not check on the condition of the infant. It is also alleged that the 12-year-old daughter tried to call Julite on her cell phone around 10:36 a.m., when she discovered the infant may not be breathing, and could not reach her for about 15 minutes.
The couple has been given a Jan. 9, 2014 jury trial date in front of Third Circuit Court Judge Dana Hathaway. Al-Asadi faces a single count of second-degree child abuse, while Julite faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and second-degree child abuse. The maximum penalty for second-degree child abuse is a four-year sentence, and involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of 15 years and $7,500.
Sarah Scranton, CEO of Tomorrow’s Child — a statewide advocacy and support organization, which looks to reduce the mortality rates in Michigan and provide assistance to families that lose an infant — said adults and other children should never share a bed with an infant because this exponentially increases the chance for suffocation.
Scranton said parents and caregivers need to be educated correctly about the correct sleep environment for an infant. Infants should be placed on their backs and without unnecessary items, such as stuffed animals, pillows or crib bumpers.
“Although we have made great strides in reducing the number of preventable infant deaths in Michigan, more work remains,” Scranton said. “In 2012, nearly 150 Michigan infants died from suffocation, strangulation or entrapment due to sleeping in environments that were unsafe. I find the loss of these babies to unsafe sleep environments to be a tragedy, particularly since such deaths are 100 percent preventable.”
Governor Snyder made a proclamation last year that September is Infant Safe Sleep Awareness Month. The Traverse City-based Munson Medical Center joins Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak in Snyder’s goal to increase education for parents on providing safe sleeping conditions for infants.
The initiative is overseen by the Michigan’s Departments of Human Services and Community Health, which distributes videos featuring experiences from families who share their stories.
“Continued initiatives and support from our partners and community leaders are imperative to preventing these deaths and saving the lives of Michigan children,” said MDCH Director James Haveman.
(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at [email protected])