Poconos Coal

Tamaqua couple charged in baby's suffocation death

TAMAQUA, Pa. - A Schuylkill County man and woman are being charged in the death of their infant.

To make matters worse, police say it's a situation that could easily have been prevented.

February 5, police were dispatched to a Tamaqua, Schuylkill County home.

Court papers say inside they found any parent's worst nightmare: a six-week-old baby boy not breathing and unresponsive.

"Chaos, chaos. Other kids were in the house and they were screaming and carrying on," neighbor Barbara Francis said of that night.

The baby later died.

Police say he suffocated while sleeping in the same bed as his parents, 22-year-old Joe Kuhla and 23-year-old Alyssa Shellhammer, and the couples' three other children.

Court papers say one of those kids had been lying on top of the infant's stomach.

Both parents are being charged with several counts of endangering the welfare of a child and reckless endangerment of another person.

"Infant in danger if more than one people are sleeping there," pediatrician Dr. Mira Slizovsky said.

She said no child under the age of one should ever be in the same bed as adults.

"The baby can suffocate mechanically, be strangled mechanically," she added.

Court papers go on to say the couple initially told the police the baby boy was in a pack-and-play next to the bed.

Police also say both parents didn't want to go with the ambulance and were not in the hospital when their boy was pronounced dead.

Neighbors told us the home was an unsafe environment for kids.

"Cops were called pretty often. Four to five times I've seen them there," neighbor Josh Moyer said.

Francis said she's called the police on the couple several times.

Tamaqua Police would only say they've been to the house numerous times.

The couple has since moved from the home.

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