PITTSBURGH -- A West Virginia woman has pleaded guilty to trying to smother her 4-month-old son at a Pittsburgh hospital last year, and is still being investigated for allegedly trying to do the same thing more than a dozen times in her home state, according to the district attorney's office.
Rachel Nelson, 23, of Costa, W.Va., pleaded guilty Monday to one count each of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child rather than face trial before an Allegheny County judge. She'll return for sentencing Sept. 5.
District attorney's spokesman Mike Manko said West Virginia authorities were still working to indict her on charges that she tried to suffocate the boy repeatedly in that state.
Nelson's public defender declined comment and referred questions to the head of her office, who did not immediately return a call.
Pittsburgh police Lt. Kevin Kraus has said investigators believe Nelson may have tried to suffocate the boy more than a dozen times since August.
The boy was treated at a Charleston, W.Va. hospital six times after he turned blue and had to be resuscitated, then was transferred to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in October for what police called "repeated episodes of apnea and hypoxia and concerns of medical child abuse."
The boy's father woke up in his son's hospital room on Oct. 19 to find the boy blue and not breathing, and told police Nelson was the only person awake with the boy. When the boy was transferred to intensive care, he was again found limp with abnormal breathing on Oct. 20. After doctors reviewed surveillance footage of Nelson in the room alone with the boy and blocking the camera's view of him, she acknowledged holding the boy to her chest until he stopped breathing, police said.
Nelson was taken to a psychiatric facility for evaluation after she was charged, but it wasn't clear if she was continuing to receive psychiatric treatment.
Kraus said investigators have been unable to explain Nelson's actions.
"At this point we don't know," Kraus said. "That's up to the medical people and the physicians to determine."