(ABC)– The mother of an infant who authorities say died of poisoning from an overdose of Benadryl expressed feelings of “shock” on Sunday after learning that police had charged the child’s daycare provider with murder.
Katie Mulkey said she placed her 8-month-old son Haddix Mulkey in the care of Lori Conley, a woman who authorities are describing as an unlicensed childcare provider. The child died on May 13 for reasons that were then unknown and she told ABC News that she was “in the dark” about what had happened to her son until an investigating detective told her on Friday that Conley had been arrested for fatally administering a dose of the allergy medication Benadryl.
“I was in complete shock,” she told ABC News by phone. “He was just learning to crawl.”
Police released a statement saying that they arrived at Conley’s, who was baby-sitting eight children at the time, to follow up on a call about an unresponsive infant. The child, Mulkey’s son, was transported to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where he was pronounced dead. It took three weeks for the coroner’s office to produce a toxicology report. Released on Friday, the report states that Haddix died from the lethal dose of Benadryl. Conley was charged with murder shortly thereafter.
“I want people know the good things about my son. That he loved ice cream and that he had just gotten his first tooth,” Mulkey said. “Parents are supposed to go before their children. My baby went too early.”
Lt. Ron Wright of the Reynoldsburg Police Department told the Columbus Dispatch that Conley was not running a licensed daycare center, but was babysitting to support three teenage children of her own. He told the paper that attempts to revive Haddix en route to the hospital failed, and that Conley told detectives that she gave the baby an adult dose of Benadryl “to help him sleep.”
Conley was arraigned Saturday in Franklin County Municipal Court and bond was set at $750,000. She was held in the Franklin County Jail. If she makes bond, she was ordered not to have contact with children, although she was permitted contact with her own children under supervision. Court records did not say whether she entered a plea and do not list an attorney for her. ABC News’ attempts to reach her were unsuccessful.
A request for comment from the Reynoldsburg Police Department and from Pfizer, the maker of Benadryl, were not immediately returned.
Benadryl, a popular brand name antihistamine medication, sometimes causes drowsiness in adults. A dosing guide on Benadryl’s website recommends that children under the age of six not use the adult version of the drug. There is also a children’s version of the drug, but the website recommends that it not be given to children under 2 years old.
An obituary for Haddix posted on the website for the Cotner Funeral Home in in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, mentions that he left behind “a broken-hearted mommy.”
“Our beautiful angel Haddix James Mulkey was unexpectedly called home to be the with the Lord on May 13, 2016. In the 8 months we had him, our lives will forever be changed from the joy and love he provided,” the statement reads.
Mulkey told ABC News that she is collecting news clips from the incident because they constitute what remains of her son’s life, and that she will attend Conley’s trial in order “bring closure” to his death. She told ABC News that she wants other parents to be aware of how serious a danger adult drugs can pose to children.
“I was never aware that my son was drugged. I didn’t condone it. I didn’t ask for this,” she said.
A similar incident took place in Barstow, Florida, in 2001. Babysitter Paula Burcham, 53, mixed a fatal dose of a liquid generic form of Benadryl into the formula of three-and-a-half month old infant Grace Fields. A judge dismissed a civil lawsuit against Pfizer by Grace’s mother in 2004.
Burcham denied giving the child Benadryl to investigators for six months after the death of the baby that was placed in her care, and tried to frame the incident as a case of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). She attempted suicide in 2002 by overdosing on medication.
She pleaded no contest to manslaughter in August 2003 and was sentenced to eight years in prison.