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Woman pleads guilty to trying to smother son

| Monday, July 15, 2013, 1:21 p.m.

A West Virginia mother accused of trying to smother her infant son at Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville pleaded guilty on Monday, the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office said.

Rachel Nelson, 23, of Costa, W.Va., was scheduled for trial before Common Pleas Judge Anthony M. Mariani. She pleaded guilty to three counts, including aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children and recklessly endangering another person, said Mike Manko, district attorney's spokesman.

Sentencing is set for Sept. 5. Nelson faces up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors alleged that Nelson tried twice in October to suffocate her then 4-month-old son while he was a patient at UPMC Children's Hospital. Nelson first told police she “blacked out” during the incidents, but later admitted she held the boy against her chest, squeezing tighter when he struggled to breathe, according to court documents.

Doctors in West Virginia transferred the boy to Children's Hospital because the child's parents took him six times to a hospital in Charleston for treatment, according to police.

Nelson went to Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Oakland for an evaluation before police arrested her.

Investigators believe Nelson tried to suffocate her son as many as 15 times. Manko said a West Virginia grand jury is investigating the matter.

Justin Marlowe, an assistant prosecutor in Boone County, W.Va., said prosecutors in West Virginia were waiting for the outcome in Allegheny County before proceeding.

He would not comment on possible charges against Nelson.

The boy lives with his father in West Virginia, Manko said.

The boy's father, who wasn't identified, was not charged. He could not be reached for comment.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

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