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Cottage Grove mother charged with manslaughter in newborn's suffocation

Police say a Cottage Grove woman suffocated her newborn baby while sleeping with him after she had been drinking.

Washington County prosecutors charged Toni A. Medrano, 29, with two felony manslaughter charges in connection with the 3-week-old baby's death last year. Medrano admitted that she drank vodka and later went to sleep with her newborn positioned between her and a cushion on a couch in the family's Cottage Grove home. She later awoke and discovered the baby was purple and not breathing, according to the criminal complaint filed Thursday, June 7, in Washington County District Court.

Medrano is charged with second-degree manslaughter for allegedly causing the death by culpable negligence. The charge involves creating an unreasonable risk and consciously taking chances of causing death.

She also was charged with another count of second-degree manslaughter for a death caused by neglect or endangerment of a child. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

According to the criminal complaint:

Medrano told a Cottage Grove police detective that she returned home around 8 p.m. Nov. 21, 2011, with the newborn and her other children. She said she drank almost an entire "fifth" of Phillips vodka before going to sleep about midnight. She slept on a couch with the newborn, and said she awoke at 3 a.m. to feed him before going back to sleep.

Medrano said she awoke three times between 6 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. to talk to her other children. She finally awoke at 10:30 a.m. and noticed that her newborn was not breathing and was cold and purple. She screamed to her husband: "JJ, the baby is dead."

The father, who was sleeping upstairs, called 911 and started CPR on the baby. Police arrived and continued CPR until an ambulance transported the baby to Woodwinds Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner's office later concluded that the baby died of suffocation due to being laid upon while sleeping, police said.

A half-hour after police were called to the home, an officer checked Medrano's blood-alcohol concentration. It was 0.11; 0.08 is the legal driving limit.

Medrano's husband told police that his wife sleeps heavily after she drinks and that she had been drinking throughout the weekend. He said he also told his wife not to lie on the couch with the baby because she could fall asleep and suffocate him.

The criminal charges were delayed as authorities awaited the results of toxicology tests.

Cottage Grove Police Capt. Pete Koerner said it was a very difficult case for all involved.

Washington County Attorney Pete Orput called it tragic.

"My office is grateful for the fine job the members of the Cottage Grove Police Department have done in investigating this case," Orput said. "Irrespective of the ultimate outcome in this matter, I hope that valuable lessons can be learned from these very tragic circumstances."

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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