A Tennessee woman tried to poison her hospitalized infant son by repeatedly injecting salt water into his feeding tube in what she claimed were attempts to speed up the death of a suffering child, police said.
The woman, Amber Brewington, told Pittsburgh investigators that the 4-month-old boy, Noah King, became severely ill in May and later suffered possible brain damage, but police haven't said whether they believe the child had an underlying illness.
King remained in critical condition Wednesday with sodium poisoning at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Brewington, 21, was charged with one count of attempted homicide after telling police she had injected her son with salt water five or six times in Tennessee and Pennsylvania hospitals. She said she was suffering from severe postpartum depression.
A hospital worker called police late Tuesday after a nurse reported seeing Brewington disconnect the boy's feeding tube. Brewington was taken into custody at the hospital with a pink camouflage backpack that had a large container of Morton salt, two bottles filled with salt water and a plastic syringe, police said.
Brewington told police that King was admitted to a hospital in Columbia, Tenn., in May and later transferred to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where the boy suffered unexplained seizures and possible brain damage.
While at the Nashville hospital, Brewington "gave her infant son four to five full syringes of high volume salt water in attempts to speed up his death," police wrote in an affidavit. "Amber felt that she did not wish to see her son suffer."
King was transferred to the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh on July 9. Upon arrival, he had one of the highest recorded levels of sodium, even for an adult, according to the affidavit.
Brewington admitted giving him another syringe of salt water on Sunday, though she denied she was trying to do it again when she was caught by the nurse Tuesday, police said.
Pittsburgh Police Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki, however, said Wednesday: "We believe last night was another attempt to deliver more salt water or sodium to her child."
Stangrecki said King's father initially traveled with him to Pittsburgh, and his condition improved. But the baby's health deteriorated after his mother visited him on Sunday and again on Tuesday night, he said.
It's unclear whether investigators have corroborated Brewington's claim that King was suffering from some underlying illness and that she was attempting a mercy killing. A message left for Stangrecki later Wednesday wasn't immediately returned.
Brewington, of Duck River, Tenn., also was charged with aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child. She was to be arraigned in Pittsburgh later Wednesday.
It was not immediately clear if she would have an attorney representing her at the hearing.
The boy's father has been questioned, but is not suspected of wrongdoing and faces no charges, Stangrecki said. Brewington has two children with him and a third child by another man, Stangrecki said.
Authorities in Hickman County, Tenn., are aware of the case and Brewington's two other children are being cared for by a relative, said Rob Johnson, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Children's Services. He didn't disclose names or ages of children or relative.