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Police say West Virginia mother may have tried to suffocate infant boy 15 times

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By Margaret Harding
Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, 10:16 a.m.

The mother of a West Virginia infant may have attempted to suffocate him as many as 15 times since August, Pittsburgh police Lt. Kevin Kraus said on Thursday.

The child's parents took him six times to a Charleston hospital for treatment, Kraus said, and the sixth time, doctors transferred him to Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville.

Investigators said they believe Rachel Nelson, 22, of Costa, W.Va., tried to suffocate the boy, 4 months, at Children's on Friday and again on Saturday. Police charged Nelson with aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a child and recklessly endangering another person.

“From what we understand, she would compress the child, smothering him to near death,” Kraus said.

Police plan to arrest her upon her release from Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Oakland, where doctors were evaluating her.

On Friday, Shawn Nelson, 43, the child's father, alerted nurses that the boy was not breathing. He performed rescue breaths until nurses arrived and resuscitated him, the complaint stated. Nelson said he was sleeping when the boy became unresponsive.

On Saturday, doctors revived the child when he was limp and breathing abnormally. Video from his room shows Rachel Nelson blocking the camera's view of him.

A doctor told investigators that medical personnel could find no underlying condition that would cause the baby to stop breathing.

Rachel Nelson first told investigators that she “blacked out” during incidents involving the child but eventually acknowledged she would hold the boy against her chest and hold him tighter when he struggled for air, the complaint said.

It's unclear what the long-term effects of the assaults might be, Kraus said. The boy was in stable condition and under guard at the hospital.

Kraus said the child's father cooperated with investigators and does not face charges.

Sgt. Josh Weagel of the Boone County Sheriff's Office in West Virginia said investigators there are aware of the situation. He declined to comment further.

Margaret Harding is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or

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