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Police: Baby in Lebanon manslaughter case had eating issues for more than a week
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Police: Baby in Lebanon manslaughter case had eating issues for more than a week

A Lebanon infant who allegedly died of malnutrition had been having issues consuming her mother’s milk for eight days, but her parents didn’t get baby formula for the child, according to court paperwork.

The parents, Kristian Lee, 23, and Shantell Swiercz, 23, were each charged with first-degree manslaughter last week in Linn County Circuit Court.

Their daughter, Sandra Lee, died at the age of seven weeks on March 28.

Lebanon Police Department officers responded to the couple’s apartment in the 800 block of Park Street at about 10:50 p.m. on March 28.

“We immediately noticed how skinny Sandra’s body was and how she appeared to be malnourished,” a detective wrote in a probable cause affidavit.

The couple had moved into the apartment 10 days earlier, but the home had little inside it and there was barely any edible food. “On the kitchen counter was a large bag of tobacco for rolling cigarettes and an empty bottle of Crown Royal whiskey. There were no signs of baby formula (or) baby bottles and we only found one spare diaper,” the detective wrote.

The baby’s body weighed 5 pounds, 4 ounces at an autopsy, an affidavit states.

In follow-up interviews, Swiercz said she had problems producing breast milk. For the last two days of her daughter’s life it was crystal clear, but she didn’t talk to any doctors or nurses about the issues, she told investigators.

“We asked Shantell if she noticed Sandra looking different while giving her a bath or changing her diaper. Shantell told us that she has only bathed Sandra two times since birth and zero times since they moved into their new residence. Shantell said she didn’t notice anything different regarding how Sandra looked,” the detective wrote.

A family member told police that he was concerned about the couple’s children during a visit two days before the baby died. “He was visiting Kristian and Shantell, who were outside their apartment smoking and drinking. He told me the baby was crying, and he had to tell Shantell about three times to go care for her children. He told me that on the third time he had to get stern,” the detective wrote in an affidavit.

Another family member said that a week before the child’s death, Swiercz told her about the breast milk issue. The family member instructed her to go to the store, buy baby formula and a bottle and feed the child, an affidavit states.

On the night of the baby’s death, Swiercz knew something was wrong and that they needed to take the child to the hospital, but Lee refused to do so, she told police.

According to the PC affidavit, they argued and Lee ended up going to bed. Swiercz took the baby’s temperature, which registered at about 80 degrees. She sat on the couch with her baby and waited for two hours after the infant’s death to call 911, according to the affidavit.

“Shantell was very upset at Kristian for not allowing her to take Sandra to the doctor, but she didn’t feel like she had done anything wrong, even though she never tried to get Sandra help on her own,” the detective wrote.

Swiercz was waiting until April 1 to buy baby formula, because that’s when she would be paid. She never reached out for assistance from a government agency, family, friends or other resources with help in getting baby formula, according to an affidavit.

Kyle Odegard can be contacted at 541-812-6077 or kyle.odegard@lee.net.

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