BEDFORD COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — An Everett woman faces homicide charges after state police say a 3-year-old choked on baby wipes.
Chelsea Cooley, 31, is charged with homicide, aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a child and other related felonies after the child, who she referred to as her ‘step-son,’ died from choking on wipes, according to state police. The boy was taken from the home along East First Street in Everett Borough to UPMC Bedford on May 28 and was later flown to UPMC Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Doctors reported to police that they removed four wet wipes from the child’s throat and noted there was some blood on them. It was their expert opinion that they were lodged so far down his throat that he never could have put them there himself, according to court documents.
Troopers say the boy died at the Children’s Hospital on May 29 at 4 p.m. An autopsy reportedly found the 3-year-old had substantial bruising and injuries to his body. The boy’s death was determined to be caused by strangulation, according to state police.
Through the investigation, troopers spoke with Cooley and the child’s 11-year-old sister. They also spoke with the father who was working a 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift at the time.
According to Cooley, she claimed that the 3-year-old had a temper tantrum while eating lunch and spent the rest of the day watching cartoons. After allegedly refusing to eat dinner, she put him to bed. She checked on him about an hour later at 8:30 p.m. and said he was cold and nonresponsive.
Cooley later changed her story, telling police she went up to the second floor to find the child in the bathroom. She explained the feces that was found on his hand was from him flushing his underwear. She then claimed he grabbed his throat and started gasping before falling to the floor. Cooley then took a photo of the young boy and send it to his father. Police noted that the timestamp of the photo on her phone was 8:41 p.m.
Police began to question Cooley further after they realized it took her another 25 minutes (9:07 p.m.) to call 9-1-1. She claimed to troopers that her phone won’t let her make calls sometimes.
The 11-year-old sister of the boy said he was put in bed sometime after 7 p.m. She told police that she went over and gave him a hug. She told him “I love you” and he replied, “I love you, Sissy.” She said she then went back to her room and played video games with a headphone on and never heard anything until her father called her and she left her room to find him laying on the floor.
Troopers also noted that what the sister said he was wearing when she saw him in bed was different than what he was wearing when rushed to the hospital.
The autopsy reportedly showed signs of abuse, including scratches and handprints the size of an adult on his body. There was also hemorrhaging in his trachea.
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Cooley went before a judge and was arraigned Tuesday night, May 31, on her charges. She was placed in Bedford County Prison and denied bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 8.