A Minneapolis wife and husband, who already had lost custody of nine of their 11 children, were charged with murder Monday after their 6-week-old daughter, Imani, suffocated in a laundry basket filled with an adult-sized pillow and blankets.
Cardie Jackson, 39, and Shonwta Jackson, 40, were each charged with second-degree murder Monday for their daughter’s death in March. A warrant for their arrest was issued, but the couple had not been arrested as of Monday night.
The baby was the couple’s 11th child. Another child, a 2-year-old, is now in foster care and proceedings to terminate their custody are ongoing, court documents show.
According to the complaint, on March 2, Cardie Jackson the baby’s mother, called police because the baby was not breathing.
She told police that Shonwta Jackson woke up to use the bathroom and saw the baby was face down in the laundry basket, “where she regularly slept.” The laundry basket was on the floor next to the bed, according to court records.
Cardie Jackson told police that the night before, several people, including two of her adult sons, were at the apartment for a party. She said she had been drinking and smoking marijuana.
She told investigators she tried to feed the baby some formula at 3 a.m. but “the baby wasn’t very hungry.” She then put the baby in the laundry basket and went to sleep. She awoke to find the baby’s father holding the baby and saying she was not breathing.
A nurse had given the couple information about a safe sleep environment, the complaint said. A visiting nurse service was provided because the baby was born 4 weeks premature.
“The literature read, ‘use a firm mattress in a safety-approved crib covered by a fitted sheet.’ Keep soft objects, stuffed toys and loose bedding out of your baby’s sleep area and don’t use pillows in your baby’s sleep area,” the complaint said, noting that the literature was found on the couple’s coffee table.
Chuck Laszewski, a spokesman for the Hennepin County attorney’s office, said given the couple’s history with child protective services, the fact that they were drinking and that they had been told how to safely put the child to bed, led to the murder charge.
“All of those things together show child neglect,” he said.
The couple had 10 other children, born between 1992 and 2014, according to the complaint. The baby and the 2-year-old were still in their custody, but they had given up their parental rights to six of their children between 1997 to 2004. Three other children were in long-term foster care or in the legal custody of someone else between 2001 and 2004.
When the 2-year-old was born, Hennepin County Child Protection initiated an investigation because of the family’s prior history. Cardie Jackson was required to show that she was fit to care for the child. Because she successfully completed the requirements, no protection case was opened when the baby was born.
Janine Moore, director of Hennepin County Child Protection, said generally, if a case plan is completed, having another child would not automatically trigger another investigation.
“If they complete a case plan, and a new report comes in and it meets our standards requiring intervention, then we will open another case,” Moore said. “But if we get another case saying that they’ve had another child, and doesn’t meet our standards, then we wouldn’t offer services.”