Seeking attention, Ashleigh Casey allegedly smothered daughter 4 years after killing son
In the spring of 2009, Ashleigh Casey's newborn son Alexander was admitted to an emergency room with mysterious symptoms. Doctors didn't see anything wrong with him, and he was released, only to be found dead in Casey's St. Louis Park home later that same day. She claimed he had simply stopped breathing, and Alexander's cause of death was officially determined to be "sudden infant death syndrome."
But this spring, Casey's newborn daughter, also suffering from mysterious symptoms, was admitted to the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital. In the middle of the night on May 17, Casey, 25, alerted a nurse that she wasn't breathing. Thankfully, the nurse was able to revive her, but suspicions aroused by that incident led to Casey being charged with murder in connection with Alexander's death.
The Star Tribune backgrounds the mysterious circumstances of Alexander's 2009 death and why Casey's being charged in connection with it more than three years later:
Charges say St. Louis Park police suspected something was wrong when Casey didn't seem distraught and checked her text messages while paramedics tried in vain to revive Alexander after he stopped breathing on March 12, 2009. It wasn't the first time it had happened, she told investigators at the time. He'd been hospitalized for bowel surgery less than a week earlier, and earlier on the day he died she had taken him to the hospital because he had been crying all day.
Casey told investigators she returned home with Alexander that evening and laid him on the bed next to her while she watched TV. She reported her show ended at 9 p.m., which is when she noticed he was no longer breathing, and that she attempted CPR before calling for help. She said Alexander had stopped breathing a couple of weeks before. Casey's grandmother, a registered nurse, told police that on March 3 she resuscitated the baby boy, while police and paramedics were called. Charges say Alexander's medical records show doctors found nothing medically wrong with him that would have caused him to quit breathing.
The case was closed when a Hennepin County Medical Examiner could not determine why the baby had died, but it was reopened last May after Casey brought her daughter to the Children's Hospital, where she was undergoing testing. Charges say Casey called a nurse to the room and said that her daughter wasn't breathing. A nurse performed CPR and revived her. The baby was sitting up and smiling as she was wheeled to the Intensive Care Unit for monitoring. A suspicious doctor contacted child protection, who then notified St. Louis Park police.
As KARE 11 reports, in hindsight, it appears clear that Casey suffers from a textbook case of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome:
A child protection investigator interviewed Casey in Mille Lacs County [following the incident in May of this year] and during the interview, Casey asked numerous questions about Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome. Casey told the investigator she had something like a dream where she put her hand over her daughter's mouth, but maybe it wasn't a dream, the investigator said.
Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome is a mental illness where a caregiver either exaggerates a child's symptoms or causes medical problems for a child in order to gain attention for the caregiver.
Casey told investigators that when she put a blanket over Alexander's mouth on the night of his death, she fully expected him to start breathing again, as he had when she had done the same thing in the past. Asked why she was in the habit of smothering her children in the first place, Casey said she "wanted them to get more attention from the doctors she had been bringing them to," the complaint says.
Casey was charged with second-degree murder in connection with Alexander's death and two counts of assault for smothering her daughter. Her daughter's welfare is currently being overseen by Mille Lacs County child protection services.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.