HAGERSTOWN — While breast-feeding her 2-month-old daughter, Yadina Morales passed out drunk, smothering the girl with her body. On Tuesday, she told a judge that she wakes up every day wishing she had died instead.
“I never, ever meant for any of this to happen,” Morales, 22, of Hagerstown tearfully told the judge before he sentenced her to 15 months in jail for the Nov. 2 death of her daughter Marilyn.
Morales’ actions, though accidental, were “way, way, way beyond what was reasonable,” Washington County Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long told her.
Morales entered an Alford plea to involuntary manslaughter. An Alford plea is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgement the state has enough evidence to convict.
She could have been sentenced to up to 10 years. Long suspended more than six years and ordered Morales into a jail substance abuse program.
Prosecutors dropped four other charges, including child abuse and reckless endangerment.
Marilyn’s father Dwayne Bryant, 38, told police he came home from a night of drinking with friends and found Morales passed out on top of their unresponsive daughter. He said he and Morales had started drinking at home after she put her two older girls, ages 2 and 4, to bed. When he left, Morales was on the couch breast-feeding Marilyn. Bryant said the baby was lying between her mother and the sofa’s back cushion.
When Morales’ blood-alcohol level was tested about 12 hours later, it registered 0.256, more than three times the legal limit for drunken driving.
The state medical examiner ruled the death an accidental case of “overlay,” when a person lies atop or against an infant. Overlay can cause accidental asphyxiation in bed, the leading cause of infant injury death, according to federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Institutes of Health says babies should not sleep on couches, chairs or adult beds, either alone or with others.
Morales’ previous boyfriend was convicted in June 2013 of physically abusing her 4-year-old daughter. Both older girls are now in foster care.
Assistant State’s Attorney Brett Wilson said Morales was irresponsible and self-indulgent. He said the tragedy “could have been avoided with the simplest, most basic understanding of duty.”