Lawyer for caregiver of baby who died last year says toxins may have been in mother's breast milk

Staff Reporter

The parents of an infant who died while in the care of a Tillman's Corner woman last year adamantly dismissed on Tuesday claims by the woman's lawyer that the child may have died from toxins picked up from his mother's breast milk.

A civil suit filed by Robert and Mary Hernandez against day care director Melinda Poplin, holding her responsible for the death of their 10-week-old son, Douglas, already has been settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

But Mary Hernandez said Mobile attorney John Pierce's new claims that it was her breast milk that helped kill her baby -- instead of drugs Poplin administered shortly before he died -- was meant to take the heat off any criminal investigation.

She said she stopped breast feeding her son five weeks before he died, after her physician prescribed a new medication for her blood pressure.

The Hernandez family contends that on Aug. 30, 2002, Poplin gave their son medication without their permission.

An early autopsy report showed that the child died after inhaling vomit, while a toxicology report indicated he had antihistamines and a cough suppressant in his system, among other drugs.

An amended autopsy report issued by Department of Forensic Sciences specialist Dr. Leroy Riddick in June indicated acute drug toxicity was also a contributing cause.

Riddick wrote that in my opinion, the aspiration was due to the depression of the central nervous system from the drug toxicity. Exactly when and how the infant received the drugs are investigative matters, which remain unclear to me. Thus, the manner remains undetermined.

Although labeling his premise raw speculation, attorney Pierce on Tuesday contended Mary Hernandez's breast milk could have delivered the toxic drugs to the little boy.

"It's not really fair to conclude that just because toxicology found these drugs it automatically means that someone at the day care center administered them, Pierce said.

Hernandez family attorney Greg Breedlove said the evidence in the case was clear from the beginning.

"The facts are that Douglas was dropped off that morning at 7 a.m., Breedlove said. He did not develop any adverse re action until that afternoon.

The Hernandezes said Tuesday their goal is to get legislation passed making it a crime for anyone to administer medicine to a child without parental permission.

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