WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island health officials have determined the cause of the February death of an infant in Warwick.
Joseph Wendelken, a spokesperson for the state Department of Health, said Thursday that Willow Beeley died as a result of asphyxia due to overlay.
Overlay refers to “when another person rolls on top of or against the infant while sleeping,” according to the Centers for Disease Control.
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“Babies should sleep alone,” said Wendelken. “They should have their own sleeping space.”
On the night of Feb. 21, the 7-month-old was found unresponsive inside her home on Airway Road and transported to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Willow’s father, Ryan Beeley, was charged with cruelty to or neglect of a child following the girl’s death. Her mother, Mariah Ramos, was charged with the same felony count in April. Both parents pleaded not guilty.
The state has seen eight co-sleeping deaths in the past two years, according to Wendelken. The health department is working with the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) to communicate with parents statewide about the issue.
Wendelken also warned parents that it’s not just people that can pose a danger to an infant.
“Sheets, blankets, pillows, bumpers, stuffed animals…should all not be in the crib,” he said. “The crib should be empty when the baby is put to sleep.”
In the days following Willow’s death, Eyewitness News learned that the DCYF had investigated the family twice before, but the agency concluded at the time that allegations of neglect were unsubstantiated.
Police initially reported the child’s name was Willow Ramos. However, the Health Department now confirms the child’s last name is Beeley.