Vermont day care owner charged in baby’s Benadryl death

A Vermont day care owner is facing manslaughter charges after authorities say she caused a 6-month-old baby girl’s death by giving her Benadryl.

>> Read more trending news

Stacey L. Vaillancourt, 53, pleaded not guilty Monday to felony charges of manslaughter and cruelty to a child resulting in death. Prosecutors said Vaillancourt caused the Jan. 24 death of 6-month-old Harper Rose Briar, who Vaillancourt had been caring for at her state-certified day care, by giving the baby Benadryl, the Rutland Herald reported.

An autopsy report was completed March 13 and concluded Harper’s death was a homicide caused by diphenhydramine -- also known as Benadryl -- intoxication, the newspaper reported.

The report said diphenhydramine should not be used on infants without an order from a physician, WCAX-TV reported. There was no such physician's order for Harper, a police affidavit said.

It also said the diphenhydramine had to have been given to the infant within a couple hours of her death.

Harper’s parents, 21-year-old Marissa Colburn and 21-year-old Blake Briar, testified that Harper was generally healthy but was usually a poor sleeper and sometimes couldn’t sleep unless she was held, the newspaper reported. Both parents testified they hadn’t given Harper medication.

“In this affidavit of probable cause, the state is alleging that (Vaillancourt) sedated an otherwise beautiful, happy, healthy 6-month-old to the point that that baby could not lift her head and it died. From the state’s perspective, that is about as serious a charge as we see in Vermont,” the affidavit said.

Vaillancourt’s attorney, Robert P. McClallen, said in court that his client had run the day care for about 25 years, but said she voluntarily shut the business down after Harper’s death, the newspaper reported.

Vaillaincourt turned down requests for comment.

If found guilty of the manslaughter charge, Vaillaincourt faces a mandatory minimum penalty of one year in jail and up to 15 years in jail. If found guilty of the cruelty to a child charge, she faces up to 10 years in jail.

About the Author