Toddler drowns while mom is on facebook

Nikki - posted on 04/17/2011 ( 47 moms have responded )

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A US woman whose toddler drowned in a bathtub while she was distracted by Facebook has been jailed for 10 years.

Colorado woman Shannon Johnson, 34, pleaded guilty in March to negligently causing the death of her 13-month old son, who she left alone in the bath to play a game online.

According to court documents, Johnson put her son, Joseph, in the tub just after 8.30am on September 20.

She then left him unsupervised as she went to another room to share videos, check status updates and play Cafe World on Facebook, the Associated Press reports.

When she returned, Joseph was face-down in the water and not breathing.

Johnson called 911 and the toddler was rushed to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

According to an affadavit, Johnson told police she had been leaving Joseph alone in the bathtub for weeks.

She said the boy "wanted to be left alone" and was a very "independent baby".

In his sentencing remarks, District Judge Thomas Quammen told Johnson he did not think she was a bad person or that she killed her son on purpose, the Greeley Tribune reported.

But, he added, that doesn't mean her action wasn't criminal.

"You left this little boy in a bathtub so you could entertain yourself on the computer by playing games," Quammen said.

"And you left that 13-month-old human being, little Joseph, incredibly for those reasons."

An autopsy report revealed the child died of an anoxic brain injury, cardiac arrest and drowning.

Johnson was also sentenced to five years of mandatory parole following her incarceration.



This poor baby :( Do you think there should be some kind of campaign to warn parents about the dangers of leaving their child alone in the bath? While I would never leave my daughter I never realised just how quickly they could drown, because nobody ever told me (until CoM)

Clearly this woman was neglectful beyond words

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[deleted account]

I think it should be common sense. Those that can't figure out common sense shouldn't be allowed to breed.

Sneaky - posted on 04/17/2011

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criminally negligent. It doesn't take common sense to know that a baby can drown unattended in a bathtub - all it takes is the selfish desire to want to entertain yourself more than spend time with your baby. I wonder if she had PND and just didn't want to be with the baby? Not that it matters now, she has other stuff to be depressed about.

Poor bub :o(

Joanna - posted on 04/17/2011

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I leave my 3 year old "alone" in the bath, and even then I am in the adjoining room with the door open so she's in my sight. Your child might want privacy (or as Paige calls it, "pri-sacy") or to be "left alone"... You can do that responsibly by staying in view of them outside the door. Otherwise, say no way buddy, and be the parent. One minute they could be blowing bubbles under water, the next... You get it. It's tragic, but it should be common sense.

Jenni - posted on 04/19/2011

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@Loureen I hope you didn't take offence to my 'not letting them play outside by themselves'. My son is overly curious and has little sense of danger. He is extremely accident-prone. If he knows no body is watching he will touch or do things he's not suppose to. I've had quite a few scares with him. So there's no way in hell I'd let him outside alone. Some kids are more mature than others. I know my son however and I know *he* at almost 3 yrs old is not trustworthy to play outside unsupervised.



Still I don't care how 'mature' someone thinks their 13 month old. It's not worth the risk leaving a child that young alone in the bath.

[deleted account]

Oh I agree Krista, but that's why I was saying that she obviously thought it was ok to do what she'd been doing so maybe some education would have helped. I'm totally in agreement that there's no way a baby that young is "independent" enough to be left alone....anywhere for long, much less a tub. And a baby that age definitely wouldn't actually know enough to "want" to be alone. I'm just trying to feel a little compassion for someone who (considering, like you said, we don't know the whole story) may not have known any better. I also think that, just as we don't know the whole story, we probably also don't know everything she had to say about it. For them to pick those things to reveal to us in the article ("he was an independent baby" and he "wanted to be left alone")...it's almost as sensational as them putting Facebook at the front of the mix. For all we know, in between her saying those things, she may have expressed grief and regret beyond words. I wasn't saying that she doesn't deserve jail time, just that part of me feels bad for her too. She was irresponsible but she didn't set out to drown her child either.

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Lacye - posted on 04/19/2011

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Something like this recently happened to a little 3 year old girl that is from the town that I live in. She was at her father's girlfriend's house, the girlfriend was supposed to be watching her while the father took the older girl to a softball game. The little girl went outside and climbed into the hot tub and drowned. The mother of the child is having it investigated to see what happened because from what I've heard some of the things that were said was kinda fishy.

[deleted account]

That sort of stuff should be common sense I thought! Ugh sounds like my partner sometimes, he is always on his games and I am watching our daughter even when I want a break. And he always said "But I will die in the game," and my answer was something along the lines of "You have multiple lives in a game. Real life, you only get one. You can't bring back Winter if she just dies." Though now he doesn't do it, but he was a boob and had no idea at the beginning. But seriously, that poor baby! 13 months is way too young to be left alone in the bath! My daughter is 2 and I am always in the room with her. We usually take a shower or bath together, otherwise I will play with her toys in the tub. Really. How can facebook come before your own child's safety? D:

♥TIA♥ - posted on 04/19/2011

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Yes, Jennifer I agree totally.To blame the child, let the child be the adult and make adult decisions. Beyond Ridiculous. Beyond Excuses! it's absurd.

Jenni - posted on 04/19/2011

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I can almost guarantee if she would have accepted blame she wouldn't have gotten a 10 year sentence. The judge threw the book at her because she was blaming his death on him wanting to be alone and absolving herself of any wrong doing.

♥TIA♥ - posted on 04/19/2011

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Sick....to say a child that young makes such decisions. Sounds like a child raising a child. I read how some leave their children unattended just the same, for what? and yet, that woman was the lucky one to be a victim of do brainier, ignorant, unfit and so forth. Just my opinion. I never leave my young child unattended for those exact reasons for no reasons. Phone has messages, there is a time for everything. Nothing is more important than the child. Cook later, bathe them later if t.v. program is on, don't bathe them if you are such a busy stay at home mom, or just to darn busy to do so as to leave them unattended. Even with siblings, there are past stories of children drowning. Sad.....But hey, you can bring them into this world, does it matter how you can responsibly or irresponsibly take them out too. Hope this doesn't offend anyone. Just upset from such a tragic accident.

Kari - posted on 04/19/2011

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Regardless if she meant to do it or not, she is the reason that her child died and she deserves the punishment she got. I think many people don't realize that a small child can drown in a very little amount of water. Don't leave your children alone in the bath for any amount of time, it is just not worth the risk!

Veronique - posted on 04/19/2011

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I leave my almost 3 year old and 17 month old but i'm in the next room and i always keep my ears open, and i also have them sing with me so i know that alls good. I don't put enough water in were if the fell they could drown. Poor little boy, imagine how the mother feels now she needs to live with this for the rest of her life that facebook seemed more important at the time.

[deleted account]

That explains why I didn't see it Cathy - I took one look at that book and put it in a cupboard and haven't had it out since - but then I didn't need to read about not leaving my baby unattended in a bath or water, that is common sense :-)

Casey - posted on 04/19/2011

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Oh how sad :( I almost feel sorry for this mother, her child died because of her stupidity and now she has to live with that for the rest of her life I really do not know how she sleeps at night.
At 13 months old a baby can not be classed as independent not at all, alot of babies at that age can't even walk I really don't know what she was thinking.
My son is two and a half and sometimes while he is in the bath playing I'll run and grab a towel if I have forgotten one but the linen cupboard is only across the hallway so his still in sight but other then that I am in the room at all times and if I can't be then my partner is because even though our son is quite capable of sitting there and playing and can get in and out by himself I just worry that he will slip and hit his head or something.
I'm suprised that peoples toddlers want "privacy" at such a young age mine doesn't even know what that is let alone to aks me to leave the room so he can have some privacy.
While my son is in the bath I usually take that time to clean the shower and tidy up in there at least it's one less chore I can tick off my list during the day :)

Charlie - posted on 04/18/2011

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Yes 13 months is too young to be in a bath by themselves , yes the facebook thing is an angle the womancould have been on the phone or smoking a ciggy but seriously........

My two and a half year old baths by himself , uses his ducky wash cloth to wash himself , he plays and talks the whole time and the bath has those non slip rubber saftey things you buy from .......well anywhere , I go in and check on him frequently ....oh and sometimes he plays outside by himself *GASP* what a terrible mother *eyeroll*

Krista - posted on 04/18/2011

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Daniella & Joy: normally I would agree with you, but this gives me pause:

According to an affadavit, Johnson told police she had been leaving Joseph alone in the bathtub for weeks.

She said the boy "wanted to be left alone" and was a very "independent baby".


I obviously don't know the whole story, but from what I DO know, that just seems to smack of...making excuses. I would think that a woman who truly grasped the enormity of her actions would express nothing but regret and self-recrimination. But she's giving justifications as to why she did this, which makes me wonder if she really GETS it. And if that's so, then perhaps it is best for her to be incarcerated for awhile so that she can't get pregnant again.

[deleted account]

Once I got out of the bathtub before my 19 months old because she was still playing so nicely. Before I knew it she had slipped and almost went head under, I just about caught her. That's how fast it can happen, and although I was right there with her I felt ever so stupid and guilty for putting her at risk. A women where I live left the car with her older child still in it, who released the handbreak and killed the younger child who was standing behind the car. Incredibly stupid? Horribly careless? Unforgivable? Absolutely. Do I feel for children who die under such terrible and needless circumstances? More then I can tell. But 10 years in prison? That mother is being punished in her own prison for the rest of her life. And I honestly don't believe that no one here ever did anything stupid and without thinking. I am not defending her actions, but an ounce of empathy for the mother wouldn't go astray either. Stupidity and carelessness don't make for a heart of stone.

[deleted account]

When I read this, my mind went in the direction of Krista E's comment about Facebook just making it a more sensational story. Do I think the mother should have used better sense? Of course! But like Krista said, had it not been Facebook, it would have been something else. I agree that education is key. When I walked out of my OBGYN's office pregnant, part of my huge "bag 'o stuff" they gave me included several pamphlets on bathtub and water safety in general (pools, etc). While, to most of us, it's common sense to never leave a child that young alone, it doesn't come naturally to all women. My heart breaks for the child, but also for the mother. I'd be willing to bet she feels more horrible about it than any of us do. It's one of those tough, sad lessons that tragedy sometimes teaches people. It's just sad all around, for everyone involved.

Medic - posted on 04/18/2011

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My 4.5 year old does bath completely by himself and has for almost a year. He has to leave the door open and as long as he is singing or talking I leave him be. If he stops singing or talking one of us instantly goes and checks on him. I think he is plenty old enough to bathe himself and wash his body and hair on his own. I would NEVER leave my 13 month old alone in the bath...hell my 15 month old can't tell me she wants to be left alone....not that I would feel the urge to comply.

[deleted account]

This is in response to the question on page 1 (sorry, I forget who asked it)... My 3 year old does wash himself some of the time. Obviously I do it sometimes to make sure he is getting clean, but not every day. I get his hair wet, put the shampoo on his hand, and rinse his head when he is done, but he LOVES to do the washing himself. I also do his feet and back for him, but most of the time he washes the rest of his body. :)

I quit checking my 9 year olds teeth when they were 6.... I still brush my 3 year old's teeth though (after he does them).

Tinker1987 - posted on 04/18/2011

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I dont see why there would need to be a campaign ITS COMMON SENSE! i get everything ready for my son,while he is in a safe spot either placed in the crib or in a swing or seater buckled in while i get his bath stuff ready and prep the bath.then i sit with him and never take my eye off of him! Some people are so stupid!

[deleted account]

You never leave your child alone in a bath, leave them alone at all for that matter.Sad.:-( poor little child.

Rosie - posted on 04/18/2011

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13 months? hello???!!!! crazy lady?? he was 13 months old....some people shouldn't breed.

Bonnie - posted on 04/18/2011

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"She said the boy "wanted to be left alone" and was a very "independent baby".

Holy macaroni! The boy can still be independent by her just sitting in the bathroom watching him. Since when does a mother let a 13 month old run what she does and does not do. Definitely sounds like an excuse to get in her Facebook fix.

Amy - posted on 04/18/2011

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Warning about leaving a kid alone in a bath? Sorry, but should be a no brainer.

I don't even leave my 4 year old alone. She washes herself head to toe, but she could still slip in the tub, konk her head and be dead in no time. NOT worth the risk.

I've heard another one where a mom left her baby to go answer her cell phone. Sorry, but NOTHING should be more important than that child. And a toddler wanting to be alone? Fine, but not in the tub!!! My child may WANT to use a knife. Doesn't mean I am going to let them have one! For God's sake, what a stupid excuse.

Krista - posted on 04/18/2011

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The Facebook thing is just the angle -- it just makes it more newsworthy. But obviously, any mother who is stunned enough to leave a 13-month old alone in the tub would do so for any reason. If it hadn't been Facebook, it would have been TV, or the telephone, or whatever.

It saddens me that people THAT stupid can breed, when other people who would make awesome parents are infertile. And she would have to have been living under a rock to not know how dangerous this is -- it's pretty common knowledge.

That poor little baby. My heart breaks.

Jenni - posted on 04/18/2011

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Ok how the hell can you justify your 13 month old's death by saying "he wanted to be alone." How the 'f' does a 13 month old tell you he wants to be alone... and how the 'f' do you think that sounds like a good idea??? My 2 year old tells me he wants to go outside alone... does that mean I comply? Helllll no! ummm probably because he's a child and in her case a baby that has no clue about safety issues and consequences. If you have the intelligence of a can of peas you know leaving a child unattended in the bath or outside when they're that young can have dire consequences....
Please don't tell me the online game was farmville.
Idiot. Blame your 13 month old's death on himself. No wonder they gave her 10 years.

[deleted account]

Do they Cathy, I don't remember having any water safety stuff maybe I just disregarded it because I already knew?

I don't really know how to feel with this, on one hand a baby is dead becasue it's mom was really stupid - who leaves a 13 month old in the bath alone? I don't leave my 18 month old alone yet and won't for some time yet. But on the other hand I don't know if this mum should be given jail time, she has already had the worst punishment she could ever have received her son is dead, that is just horrific and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. Surely knowing that it is 100% her fault her kid died is the worst punushment she will ever have and one that will always be with her.

Nikki - posted on 04/18/2011

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Stephanie, lmao, I can imagine a teenager's reaction about getting their mouth checked each night!

April - posted on 04/18/2011

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Thats so sad, poor boy :( i always thought it was common sense to always watch a baby when their in the tub. I remember watching a show when i was little and seeing how fast it was for a baby to drown even in a little bit of water. I could never leave my kids alone. It scares me.

I don't understand why they have to add that she was on FB, it doesn't matter what she was doing, she could of went out to watch tv, the point is she left her 13 month old son in the bathtub. Which i think is nuts, he's still a baby. I don't understand why she thought that would be okay. Nothing is more important then the safety and protection of your child.

[deleted account]

Oh good lol! ; ) I have a friend who would put her kid in the tub and expect her to bathe herself alone and the poor thing was never clean. Children that age just can't wash themselves as well as they need to and get all of their areas good enough, imo. I think it was incredibly lazy and careless of her not to help. I'm too OCD about cleaning, I'll probably still be checking their ears and teeth after their shower when their in high school! ; )

Mel - posted on 04/18/2011

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I wahs my child still, for me I just meant she is left alone while we are cooking clenaing looking after the baby whatever but we wash her, and wash her hair, brush her hair all that

[deleted account]

When you guys say that your toddlers bathe alone, do you mean they were playing in the tub or actually bathing / cleaning themselves? My oldest is 4 years and while yes I let her play with her toys in the tub for a bit I still wash her hair and body for her. She does 'help' but in no way would I expect her to actually fully wash herself on her own.

Mel - posted on 04/18/2011

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I always knew....I dont know why I just always knew the dangers to the full extent which probably made me very cautious. Im more relaxed now Briannas older, but still obviously check on her very often

Nikki - posted on 04/18/2011

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That's good Cathy, I don't think we get anything here in Aus. While I have always been aware not to leave babies in the bath, as I said before I never realised how quickly they can drown in seconds until a few months ago.

Mel - posted on 04/17/2011

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Saw this. I dont think there was any other issues other then shes a selfish lazy parent. She probably just couldnt be botehred watching him. Ive got a friend very much like this, well an aquaintance not really a friend for this very rason shes a lazy parent and literally all she does is facebook all day every day while putting updates that her kids put himself to bed or fallen asleep before dinner or gotten into something stupid or been knocked out form pulling stuff down or updates that her internet is stuffed so she cant use it for a few hours. OMG must have been hell for her. Anyway This woman just sounds lazy much like my mate. Im very glad she got jailed for 10 years. So wrong. My kid started showering/abthing alone probably about 2 and a half and this was with me checking every mintute or so or putting a chair in front of the bathroom so I could breast feed and watch her.

Stifler's - posted on 04/17/2011

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This doesn't surprise me. There are too many people addicted to online games. Leave me alone junior I'm on the Facebook! I have a 13 month old and while he can sit up, stand up and just pretty much plays in the bath there's no way I'd leave him alone in there, he'd turn the hot tap on or get out and eat everything in the bathroom cupboards or something.

Ez - posted on 04/17/2011

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I have to believe that no rational mother would leave a baby that age unattended, so I have to echo Tracey and wonder if there were some mental health issues there? That baby may not have even been walking yet! Not even a toddler! Are people really that stupid?

Brittany - posted on 04/17/2011

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It should be the "DUH" factor when it comes to this subject, but alot of people are loosing this part in their brain. I agree with every one on here. if they want to be "left alone" keep them in eye sight. if you cant manage to do that then wash them and then get them out! PERIOD!

Amber - posted on 04/17/2011

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@ Joanna~ I do that too. My son takes a bath in the master bathroom while I fold laundry on my bed outside the door. I have a clear view of the entire tub, but he gets some privacy.

Amber - posted on 04/17/2011

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I think that some sort of parenting class should be offered, and encouraged, for free to expecting parents. It should cover the major points for each age, and have the material printed in easy to read pamplets for parents to keep.

Some people just don't have common sense and need everything explained to them; it's just the way it is.

Firebird - posted on 04/17/2011

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I can't remember why I knew that so young, but I knew by the time I was 8 years old that babies can't be left alone in the bath. Oh right! Rescue 911! I loved that show when I was a kid.

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