On Nov. 8, 2014, Virginia 25-year-old Candice Christa Semidey fed her 4-month-old son, Jahari Jones, swaddled him, and put him to bed. She, too, went to sleep, only to wake up and find Jahari dead. Semidey was charged with felony murder. Why? Because she wrapped Jahari in a blanket and placed him to sleep on his stomach on what the Washington Post describes as "a makeshift bed ... fashioned from a chair cushion and a blanket." Jahari suffocated, unable to move his face away from the blanket. Police determined that Semidey didn't intend to kill the little boy, but prosecutors decided she was neglectful of safe sleep guidelines and thus should be charged. Though she was charged in January, the case was not reported until this week, as the Post tallied up the number of homicides in the Washington, DC, region in 2015.
As the Prince William County police public information officer explains to the Daily Beast, nothing else in the home caused police to believe Jahari had been neglected, and Semidey was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But, as the charging documents state, she had gotten proper guidance on safe sleep guidelines (which include putting a baby down on his or her back to sleep, on a firm surface without blankets, and not swaddling a baby who is placed on his stomach), and police concluded that her conduct "was so gross, wanton, and culpable" that it showed "a reckless disregard for human life." The officer tells the New York Daily News, "This particular death isn't just about the child being placed on his stomach, but the totality of the circumstances." Semidey pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and child neglect; she must serve three years of probation to avoid going to jail for five years. (In Missouri, parents were charged in their toddler's space heater death.)