Edmonton

Delonna Sullivan left unchecked for more than 5 hours before death

Delonna Sullivan’s foster mother told a fatality inquiry Tuesday that she put the four-month-old infant down for a nap in a playpen between 9 and 10 a.m. and did not check on her until 3:30 p.m.

4-month-old's death attributed to sudden, unexplained death in infancy, or SIDS

Delonna Sullivan, four months, died six days after she was removed from her mother's home.

Delonna Sullivan's foster mother told a fatality inquiry Tuesday that she put the four-month-old infant down for a nap in a playpen between 9 and 10 a.m., and did not check on her until 3:30 p.m.

By then the child was dead, Michelle Hirsekorn, testified.

That was six days after the child was removed from her mother's home by a social worker, in April 2011, under an emergency apprehension order.

The social worker has testified she found Jamie Sullivan's house messy and poorly maintained. She said she also had concerns about possible drug and alcohol abuse by Sullivan, all of which Sullivan denied.

Hirsekorn testified Delonna was doing well in her care — a "happy, good baby," who ate well, she said.

Child was not sleeping well

However, Delonna was not sleeping well and had been awake most of the night before April 11.

Hirsekorn described with little emotion how she put Delonna down for a nap that morning, placing a blanket over her.  

She said she had put Delonna to sleep with this blanket before, and would come and find she had pulled the blanket up over her mouth.

She used a baby monitor, she said, but did not check on the child for more than five hours. When she did, Delonna had stopped breathing.

Delonna's family members and supporters wept in the courtroom as they heard those details for the first time.

Delonna's grandmother, Marilyn Koren, sobbed so hard she had to leave the courtroom.

'Left to die, alone'

Outside of court, Koren told reporters Delonna was left to die by herself.

"Totally neglected," she said. "And left to die, alone."

Earlier in the day, the medical examiner told the inquiry that "this was a sudden, unexplained death in infancy," a cause of death once referred to as "Sudden Infant Death Syndrome."

Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim noted that the "infant's sleep environment was not completely safe," as soft mattresses and blankets are risk factors.

A toxicology report showed Delonna had received cough and cold medication, but not enough that it would have contributed to her death.

Brooks-Lim said they also found evidence the child was dehydrated, but the results of that test were not so high that they could "definitively say that the child was so dehydrated she died."

"We really don't know what the child died of, despite a very detailed examination," she said.

The autopsy also showed Delonna to be well-fed and of normal development, without signs of disease, injury or trauma, Brooks-Lim said.

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