A 16-year-old who is accused of suffocating her newborn baby with a rock is being charged with first-degree murder, the Denver District Attorney’s Office says.
The suspect, identified as Alaya Dotson, was arrested on Sept. 10 – two days after her daughter Amekah Dotson was pronounced dead at Children’s Hospital.
9NEWS is naming Alaya Dotson because she has been charged as an adult.
The Denver Office of the Medical Examiner released the cause of Amekah’s death on Wednesday. She was just a few hours old.
According to a probable cause statement, Alaya Dotson’s mother called 911 just before 7:30 a.m. on Sept. 8 and said her daughter had just delivered a baby and that the child was “on the ground in the backyard of their residence and the baby looked dead.”
During interviews with police, the mother said she did not know her teenage daughter was pregnant, although people had asked her if she was in June 2017, according to the probable cause statement. Alaya Dotson said she “did not know or believe she was pregnant.”
According to the probable cause statement, doctors at the Children’s Hospital removed a rock that had been lodged in Amekah’s throat. The child was pronounced dead at 8:16 a.m. that day.
Earlier that morning, Alaya Dotson’s mother said she found her daughter in the bathroom complaining of cramping. She told police she gave her Advil and heard her run the water to take a bath.
She got the other children ready for school, according to the probable cause statement, but later went downstairs and saw that Alaya Dotson was sitting outside on the patio with a blanket wrapped around her. She says she “briefly spoke to Alaya and went back inside to make her some soup.”
When she returned, she says she noticed her daughter no longer had the blanket wrapped around her and told her to get into a chair. When her daughter stood up, the mother said she saw “a lot of blood” on Alaya Dotson’s shirt and that when she grabbed the blanket from Alaya, “the baby fell to the ground,” according to the probable cause statement.
Alaya Dotson was taken to the hospital that day and interviewed by investigators during the afternoon.
According to the probable cause statement, she says she delivered the baby in the bathroom and then took her outside with a blanket wrapped around her.
Next, according to the probable cause statement, “Alaya said her mom came outside and startled her and the baby fell out of her arms and onto the ground. When Alaya’s mom went back inside the house, she decided to pick up a rock that was on the ground and put it inside the baby’s mouth. Alaya then said she pushed the rock down the baby’s throat with her thumb.”
"This is exactly the type of situation the Safe Haven law is designed to fix," says Linda Prudhomme, the Executive Director of Colorado Safe Haven for Newborns.
In Colorado, within 72 hours of a baby being born, a mother can bring the child to a fire station or a hospital and hand it to an employee with no questions asked. As long as the baby has not been harmed, the parent will not be charged.
The law has been around for 17 years and helped more than 50 babies, but Prudhomme says more mothers need to know about it.
"No one thinks they're going to grow up and decide to hide a pregnancy and throw a baby away," Prudhomme says. "But it happens, and if you help us spread the word, it doesn't have to happen again."
Alaya Dotson was formally charged in the case on Sept. 15, according to the DA’s Office.
She is scheduled to appear in court again on Jan. 12, 2018. Her legal team could ask that her case be transferred back to juvenile court, since she is under 18.