Tragedy struck a family in Utah, but the law isn't on their side. They have been accused of killing their infant son as he co-slept with them, and it isn't the first time a similar calamity has happened to this particular couple.

Court refuses to dismiss charges

Should they be charged with murder? Read on to decide for yourself.

Three-month-old Kayson Merrill was found dead in his mom and dad's bed in 2006, and his parents have been charged with child abuse, homicide and reckless endangerment. Recently, the Utah Court of Appeals declined to dismiss the charges. Co-sleeping is a time-honored practice, but there are rules to follow and his parents may not have co-slept safely, particularly because the same thing happened with another baby a few years earlier.

Not the first time

Kayson was put to bed in between his mom and dad on his back and was found on his stomach the next morning, having died in the night.

As he was too young to have mastered rolling over on his own, the court considers that evidence that his father was directly responsible for his death by the act of co-sleeping.

Three years prior, the couple's infant daughter died in a similar manner -- in her parents' bed. That death was ruled accidental and her parents were not charged.

Details of her death will be permitted in the trial, despite the defense saying it will prejudice the jury.


Is co-sleeping dangerous?

We reported earlier on a Milwaukee Health Department's ad campaign that equated co-sleeping with putting your little one to bed with a giant knife. The ad caused quite a controversy, as many parents co-sleep safely with their little ones and felt that the inflammatory advertisements were not accurate.

Alisha, mother of three, feels that co-sleeping is a safe practice. "Personally, I think co-sleeping, when done safely, creates a great bond with parents and baby," she said.

The article also said the baby was low weight. There could be other factors too, like formula feeding or cigarette smoking or drug use.

However, many parents we polled felt that the co-sleeping environment around Kayson may not have been safe at all. "Sounds like super unsafe co-sleeping," said Melody from Texas. "The baby was in between the parents."

Emily, mom of one, agreed. "There is obviously something being done wrong by these parents as this is the second baby to die in bed with them," she explained. "If I had one child die in bed with me, I probably wouldn't try it with another. Unfortunately, this just ads more fuel to the fire for anti-co-sleepers."

Safe co-sleeping

There are important steps to take if you decide to sleep with your infant. Your baby should ideally be between you and a bedroom wall, not in between you and the baby's dad. Your mattress should be firm and there should be no fluffy blankets, pillows or stuffed animals surrounding your baby. You should also never co-sleep when you have been drinking or using drugs -- even prescription drugs that may make you drowsier than usual.

Aubrey, mother of two, shared, "I co-sleep but my husband doesn't because he is a heavy sleeper and is worried that he wouldn't realize if he rolled over on the baby."

The case is a tragic one to be sure, and the parents have to be going through tons of misery, but hopefully safe co-sleeping can still be desired and practiced by new parents as long as they know the rules.

More on co-sleeping

Safe co-sleeping
The co-sleeping debate
Tips for safe co-sleeping


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Comments on "Co-sleeping parents charged with murder"

John May 21, 2012 | 3:30 PM

I agree with the comment above --- had this been this family's first time offense but TWICE???? Don't actually SLEEP with the kids in bed. Lay them on your chest while THEY nap, not the other way around.

lfpalmer January 17, 2012 | 7:56 AM

We make recommendations that breastfeeding saves lives but we don't put parents in jail if a formula-fed infant dies. Before jailing someone whose heart is already aching horribly let's look around the world to see how many millions of babies sleep between their parents. We ought to jail them all I suppose. Studies may show that it's not optimal, yes, but studies also show that a baby sleeping alone in a crib in a separate room from her parents has TRIPLE the risk of death as one sleeping in their parents' bedroom. How many of these lone crib deaths have led to a prison sentence? When these are prosecuted, then I will go along with the above case, but I think most parents are doing their best and what works best for their families' individual needs and circumstances. We should have compassion for a family that has lost a child. How horrible and cruel to make some arrogant, hateful judgement.

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