Mom Gave Baby Sleep Aid Hours Before She Died: Police

The parents of an 8-month-old baby girl who died in Brooklyn in February are accused of giving the baby sleeping pills in her formula and have been arrested in connection with her death, according to state police.

Police responded to 648 Wauregan Road around 7:30 a.m. on Feb. 10 after the baby’s mother called 911 to report she was unresponsive and purple.

The arrest warrant application provides more information on what the parents, Justine Barber, 28, Kevin Hartshorn Jr., 32, told police.

"My baby is dead, she is not breathing," the mother, Justine Barber, 28, told dispatchers when she called 911.

Dispatchers gave Barber instructions on how to perform CPR, but she said she could not open the baby's mouth. Dispatchers then heard Barber attempting CPR, but medics would pronounce the baby girl dead at the scene at 7:46 a.m.

The office of the chief medical examiner performed an autopsy the next day, but it was inconclusive.

Months later, in May, the medical examiner determined that the child died of acute diphendrydramine intoxication after ingesting a form of Benadryl and her death was ruled a homicide.

During the investigation, Barber admitted to giving all of her children sleeping pills in their drinks, which they called "specials," according to court documents.

The couple was using a "sleep aid" to help put their baby to sleep, according to court documents. Two days before the baby's death, Hartshorn Jr. ran out and purchased the 50-milligram "sleep aid gels for his own use."

Police noted finding a "Sleep Aid" container in the house with soft gel 50-miligram tablets with instructions that they are for people 12 years old and older.

Hartshorn Jr. had been drinking on the night of Feb. 9, according to court documents. He told police that the baby was acting strangely earlier in the night and he noticed a partially dissolved 50-miligram sleeping aid in her bottle, but instead of calling for help, he sent the baby's mother a message on Facebook, according to court records.

When Hartshorn told Barber the baby would not stop crying, she told him "no more 'specials' tonight," according to police records. Then he said he could not remember if he gave the baby anything after that.

Court records show the parents exchanged messages from 2:22 a.m. until 3:22 a.m. about the child's worsening condition.

Detectives took over the investigation and obtained warrants for the baby’s parents, who both now live in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

On Wednesday, police in Connecticut reached out to police in Woonsocket and North Providence, Rhode Island and told them they had warrants for the couple.

Woonsocket Police arrested Hartshorn as a fugitive from justice on the same day and police found Barber at a hospital in Providence and also took her into custody as a fugitive from justice.

The parents waived extradition, were turned over to detectives at the 6th District Court House in Providence and transported to Troop D for processing.

Barber has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and three counts of risk of injury and her bond was set at $50,000. Hartshorn was also charged with risk of injury and negligent homicide.

“It’s a terrible tragedy. I just don’t want people treating them like they’re murderers.They’re not murderers," Robin Daigle, Barber's aunt, said. "They made a terrible decision. And they’re going to pay their consequences."

Daigle also said "they're mentally ill with mentally ill problems."

"They make decisions that normal people just done make. It was a decision out of compassion," Daigle said. "It had nothing to do with violence, they didn’t beat there baby they didn’t starve their baby."

Both appeared in G.A. 11 Danielson Superior Court on Friday, where bond for each was set at $125,000.

Hartshorn is due back in court on July 17 and has been placed on mental health watch.

Barber is due back in court on July 10 and has been placed on suicide watch.

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