Justine Barber, 30, often laced her children’s bottles with sleep aid to help them stay quiet at night.
Fox 61 reported that Barber would melt 50 milligrams (ABC News said it was 25 milligrams) of dissolved sleep aid into bottles and called them her “specials.” Her former boyfriend, Kevin Hartshorn, 34, would give the kids the bottles before bed. Then, two years ago, her youngest passed away in her crib while she was working the night shift at Walmart.
Baby given sleep aid via formula hours before she died, police say http://t.co/txqbUuyvun
— NBC Los Angeles (@NBCLA) June 6, 2015
According to the Norwich Bulletin, Hartshorn noticed the 8-month-old girl was having difficulty breathing. He told police that he had gotten drunk that evening while watching a wrestling match. He drank 15 beers and placed the crying baby on a plastic mattress.
Hartshorn sent Barber a few messages warning her that the baby was having trouble, but neither of them called for help. When Barber came home in the morning, she found her daughter had died in the home.Screenshot/Fox 61
A toxicology report indicated that there were high levels of diphenhydramine found in the baby’s body. Diphenhydramine (DHP) is a common antihistamine and an active ingredient in Benadryl and other sleep aids. It is not recommended to kids under the age of 2.
The Hartford Courant reported that Hartshorn was charged with second-degree manslaughter, and Barber was charged with negligent homicide. Both received charges for risk of injury related to death.Screenshot/Fox 61
Both Hartshorn and Barber were found to have “underlying mental illnesses” during arraignment and placed on suicide watch. Barber’s lawyer also told the courts that she was a sexual abuse victim who gave the children antihistamines to protect them from Hartshorn’s temper.
In March 2017, Hartshorn was sentenced to serve 15 years in jail, which would be suspended after two years. Barber was sentenced to two years in May 2017.
Former Brooklyn resident Justine Barber, guilty of giving infant fatal dose of sleep medicine, sentenced to 15 months
— John Penney (@jpenneyNB) May 5, 2017
Windham County State’s Attorney Anne Mahoney told the Bulletin that Barber’s sentence was reduced after she showed remorse during a child fatality review panel:
“Unfortunately, many parents dose their children with drugs in inappropriate ways to make them sleep or calm them down. (Barber) also seems to appreciate the horror of what happened.”
Sadly, Barber wasn’t the only mother to lose a child to DHP overdose in the past year.
Antihistamines (like Benadryl and Claritin) are great at reducing allergies, but an extra dose can be dangerous,…
According to ABC News, four babies in the state of Connecticut have died due to DHP overdose in the past year. The state issued a warning to parents in May. The Georgia Child Fatality Review (GCFR) Panel issued a similar warning on July 7.
Northwest Georgia News reported the Georgia Poison Center has received 940 reports of acute DHP intoxication for children under 5 since 2015, and four children have died from overdoses.
Georgia Poison Center Director Dr. Gaylord Garcia told the Palm Beach Post:
“Parents think it’s safe because you don’t need a prescription, but that’s not the case. These drugs can be dangerous. Kids who have low doses can suffer from hallucinations, which is real scary for a parent. As the dose gets higher, you start worrying about tremors, convulsions and in the worst case scenario, rarely, death.”
The Georgia Poison Center hoped to warn parents not to give their children antihistamines during the busy travel season.
The Food and Drug Administration recommends that parents should not give antihistamines and cold medications to children under the age of 2, as life-threatening side effects could occur. For children between the ages 2 and 5, parents should consult with a physician before using cold and allergy products.
Parents should avoid using antihistamines as a sleeping aid.