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Pennsylvania couple arrested in newborn son's death after failing to seek medical help, prosecutors say

A Pennsylvania couple were arrested last week in connection with the January death of their newborn son after they failed to get him proper medical treatment following his birth, authorities said.

Amy and Drew Hoenigke were taken into custody on charges of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of children, the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a Dec. 19 news release.

A friend of the Hoenigkes, Brigitte Meckes, was also arrested on the same charges. Meckes was present for the home birth of the Hoenigkes' baby, and despite not being medically licensed, assisted in his delivery and treatment, state prosecutors said.

The boy was born on or around Jan. 15, and died approximately two days later, the attorney general's office said. State police responded to the Hoenigke residence in Sullivan County on Jan. 20 — an estimated three days after the baby died — on a call from Amy Hoenigke saying that she found her baby dead in his bassinet, prosecutors said.

When troopers arrived, they found the home in a disheveled condition, and discovered the baby's body, which already had signs of decomposition, in his bassinet, prosecutors allege.

In their investigation, according to the attorney general's office, state police investigators discovered that Amy Hoenigke and Meckes attempted to treat the baby's difficulty breathing using a peppermint oil infuser, "steam teas" and a makeshift breathing tube made from a water bottle.

The defendants told investigators that prior to his death, the baby showed signs of severe distress, struggled to breath and was "turning blue," the press release said. 

Based on the baby's symptoms, experts believe the Hoenigkes and Meckes should have gotten professional medical help for the newborn, prosecutors said.

In a police interview, Drew Hoenigke said he was not home during the baby's struggle because he had left for work and then spent a few days at the home of his parents. 

According to the criminal complaint filed by state police, when asked why the defendants did not seek professional medical attention, they said they were worried authorities would remove the Hoenigkes' first child from the home, who was purportedly not registered in a hospital system, and did not have a birth certificate.

In an interview with state police investigators, the couple said they chose to live a "primitive lifestyle" and did not keep track of time frames or days of the week, the complaint reads. They also told state police they do not believe in modern medicine — another reason they chose not to seek professional medical help for their son.

"These individuals neglected their responsibilities to care for an innocent child," Shapiro said in a statement. "By failing to get him appropriate medical care, this baby needlessly suffered and died."

Authorities also discovered a wooden box in the home, which Drew Hoenigke said he made as a coffin for the baby when he returned from his parents' house. However, because the ground was frozen outside, the couple was unable to bury their son before Amy Hoenigke called the police.

The couple also told police they had buried another fetus behind a home belonging to the parents of Amy Hoenigke, the complaint reads. On Sept. 15, state police and cadaver dogs discovered evidence of that burial during a search of that area, the complaint said.

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