Passed-out mom may have crushed toddler

February 6, 2008 10:49:28 AM PST
An Indiana mother was arrested and jailed this morning after her toddler son was found trapped and unconscious underneath the passed-out woman and was declared dead an hour later. Indianapolis police responded to an emergency call shortly after 12:30 a.m. this morning about a possible dead child inside a room at a local Econo Lodge, Sgt. Matthew Mount, a spokesman for the Indiana Metropolitan Police, told ABC News.

The call was made by the boyfriend of 24-year-old Latasha McMorris, Mount said. The boyfriend told police that he had arrived at the hotel room to find McMorris passed out on top of her son, 2-year-old Sheldon Bartley Jr. The boyfriend was not the father of the child, Mount said.

"The boyfriend discovered the baby was not breathing," Mount said. "He called 911 for help."

When police arrived, a medic was in the motel room trying to revive the child, who was transported to Community East Hospital and pronounced dead at 1 a.m. McMorris was unconscious and apparently under the influence of alcohol or drugs or both, Mount said.

The Marion County Coroner will perform an autopsy today to determine exactly how the child died, but Mount said it did not appear to be from a "natural cause."

McMorris, who is being held at the Marion County Jail, was arrested at the scene and charged with felony neglect. Depending on results from the coroner's report, she could face additional charges, according to Mount.

"Did she do this on purpose because she was under the influence?" Mount asked, describing possible scenarios. "Did she just roll over accidentally on top of the child? Did she pass out and fall on top of him?"

It was unclear whether McMorris had hired an attorney. Mount said the child's biological father had been notified about his son's death.

McMorris temporarily lost custody of her son and a 6-year-old daughter after a July arrest that led to a conviction on another felony neglect charge, Mount said, adding that she has been arrested numerous times on alcohol-related charges.

Susan E. Tielking, spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Child Services, told ABC News that her office is reviewing McMorris' case and could not immediately comment on Tuesday's arrest or her conviction in July.

It is unclear when or under what circumstances McMorris regained custody after the July conviction.

Police called the child's death shocking, regardless of the coroner's determination. "You've got a small, toddler child who is supposed to be being protect by his mother," Mount said, "and instead he appears to have suffered death at the hands of his mother."