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Norton Woman Convicted of Child Abuse and Neglect in The Death of Her 5-Week-Old Baby

WISE, Va. (WJHL) — A Norton woman was convicted Wednesday of child abuse and neglect in connection with the death of her 5-week-old baby.

Sarah Elizabeth Bledsoe, 32, was convicted of three of the four charges filed against her — child abuse and neglect, possession of methamphetamine, and possession of ecstasy — during a two-day bench trial in Wise County Circuit Court. The court found her not guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Investigators say Bledsoe found her child unresponsive in her home on April 21, 2020.

During the investigation into the child’s deaths, a forensic pathologist determined that the child was a victim of “sudden unexplained infant death” associated with co-sleeping. The medical examiner testified that the child suffocated from being facedown in Bledsoe’s bed.

The Wise County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office says Bledsoe admitted that she had several visitors at her home the previous night and early that morning and had snorted “a line of methamphetamine” at some point between midnight and 2:30 a.m.

According to a forensic toxicologist, a blood sample taken from Bledsoe on the morning of the baby’s death showed that she had a 0.31 blood concentration of meth in her system. Under Virginia’s DUI statute, the presumptive level of intoxication for meth is 0.10 if she had been operating a vehicle, according to the commonwealth’s attorney’s office.

“Evidence also showed that the defendant was advised by the Virginia Department of Social Services at the child’s birth that she should not place the child in adult bedding or co-sleep with the child,” the commonwealth’s attorney’s office stated in a press release. “The defendant acknowledged that she knew co-sleeping with the child posed a significant risk of suffocation.”

Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp said, “My office will always seek justice for all citizens of Wise County and the City of Norton, particularly, those who are helpless and unable to defend themselves. This week, we sought justice for a child who was slain before he had the chance to live his life and fulfill his potential. Obviously, while we fought hard for a conviction on all counts, we respect the court’s judgment in this matter.”

A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for June 29.

Slater Teague

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