Mother charged with murder after newborn died in surprise home birth

Kelsey Carpenter, 33, has been charged with murder with malice and child endangerment

Andrea Blanco
Monday 03 April 2023 21:45 BST

A California woman is facing homicide charges after her baby died during an at-home delivery.

Kelsey Carpenter, 33, was charged with murder and child endangerment after her newborn Kiera died during a home birth in 2020, The Guardian reported. Ms Carpenter, who was by herself when her water broke two weeks before her scheduled due date, reportedly cut the umbilical cord and tried to breastfeed Kiera before passing out.

When she woke up, she realised Kiera was not breathing and called 911. San Diego prosecutors are now building a case against the mother of three, who lost custody of her two other children due to past drug use.

After regaining custody of her youngest child and becoming pregnant with Kiera, Ms Carpenter sought treatment at a facility, where she was prescribed buprenorphine for withdrawal symptoms. An autopsy determined that Kiera’s death was an accident “associated with methamphetamine and buprenorphine exposure and unattended delivery.”

Experts hired by Ms Carpenter’s defence argue that Kiera died as a result of blood loss before or after birth. Her lawyers are also citing a state bill that exempts people from being charged for the decisions they took during pregnancy if the outcome is an abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth.

Following the tragedy, Ms Carpenter was questioned after she was briefly treated at a hospital. She was charged with murder and arrested in March 2021 before being released on bail.

She was taken into custody again in January after failing to appear in court.

“I am still stunned and horrified that a person could have the biggest tragedy of their life and lose a child who was loved and was so wanted, and then be charged with such a horrible crime,” she told The Guardian over text messages from jail. “I had cherished the idea of this baby and was totally committed to becoming the best mother I knew how to be. I mourn every day for Kiera.”

Ms Carpenter’s mother, who has custody of Ms Carpenter’s eldest child, says that prosecutors and media outlets inaccurately portrayed her daughter’s story, prompting a wave of harassment and threats.

“I was fearful for her safety, and all of this was happening while she was trying to mourn Kiera,” Shande Carpenter told The Guardian.

Ms Carpenter told the outlet that she had prepared and researched for the home delivery. She said she opted for an at-home birth after losing custody of both her children when they tested positive for drugs at the hospital after birth.

“I did not want to risk losing my third child to the system,” Ms Carpenter said. “I love my babies and hoped to provide a sibling to them. I had imagined my sons being her big brothers and protecting her and showing her love.”

Meanwhile, prosecutors have argued that Ms Carpenter’s alleged delay to phone first responders and her decision to cut the umbilical cord led to Kiera’s death, despite no medical evidence.

The District Attorney’s office told The Guardian in a statement: “Carpenter is not being prosecuted for her decision to have a home birth or substance use. This is not a case involving abortion, stillbirth, or any other pregnancy outcome. This is a case about a newborn baby who died as a direct result of a parent’s acts and omissions after the baby’s live birth.”

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