A Peach Bottom woman will spend 11 to 22 years in prison for the co-sleeping death of her 2-month-old son.
Prosecutors said the child died of asphyxiation on July 12, 2016, as he slept in a bed with his mother, Jessica Marie Harper, at her home in the 2600 block of Robert Fulton Highway in Fulton Township.
In a plea deal, Harper, 30, pleaded no contest in county court Monday to third-degree murder and endangering a child.
Judge Margaret Miller called the plea, under which Harper avoids admitting guilt, “unimpressive” and “a step away from true accountability and true acceptance.”
The boy was Harper’s second son to die under her care. In January 2011, when she was living in Elkton, Maryland, she left an infant son unattended in an “unsafe sleeping position” on a couch, where he suffocated as she texted friends, according to news reports at the time.
In that case, she pleaded guilty to a reduced charge. Given a sentence of up to three years, she was released on time served, given three years of supervised probation and ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
In the Lancaster County case, Assistant District Attorney Fritz Haverstick said medical professionals and social workers repeatedly warned Harper against co-sleeping.
On one occasion, Harper reportedly responded, “I understand. I am going to co-sleep anyway.”
A crib at the residence was filled with various items, leaving nowhere for an infant to sleep in it, the district attorney’s office said.
Miller told Harper: “It has taken two dead babies … for you to finally, I hope, accept that you don’t always know better.”
Harper said her children “mean the world to me” and that her attitude has changed.
Harper has five other children by multiple fathers, according to the district attorney’s office. They have been placed in other living arrangements by social services.
“I am glad they will not be in your care and custody,” Miller said.