A Brooklyn Park mother is facing up to 10 years in prison over the 2021 death of her infant son.
Arneshia Cunigan, 30, was charged in Hennepin County court Thursday with second-degree manslaughter in the April 20 incident. Per the charges, she called 911 from her apartment that night to report that the 10-month-old was not breathing, and when officers arrived, they found her performing chest compressions on the child.
They observed that the boy had "visibly bluish-purple" skin and was "wearing only a diaper." Despite the lifesaving efforts of first responders and medical staff at Children's Hospital, he was declared dead at 9:13 p.m.
According to the charges, Cunigan told officers at the scene that she thought the victim had "choked" on his milk since she had "observed some milk coming out of his nose when she picked him up." In a statement to investigators later the same day, she said she had put the boy down for a nap with a bottle and found him not breathing when she returned to wake him 30-45 minutes later.
However, the autopsy found nothing "consistent with 'choking' or aspirating milk prior to death nor would the medical examiner expect such an event to result in death."
Further, the medical examiner "observed that the area around the victim's mouth and nose was visibly bruised," while there were contusions near one of the boy's ears as well as under his lip.
There were also multiple bruises on the front and back of the victim's torso, the charges say.
"The (autopsy) findings are consistent with death as a result of smothering or suffocation by blocking the victim’s airway, but the cause and manner of death are officially undetermined."
Detectives later learned that Cunigan was the subject of a child abuse investigation stemming from a late 2020 incident in which she brought the infant to the hospital with multiple fractures, among other injuries. "Defendant could not provide any plausible explanation for how her four-month-old infant sustained these injuries," and she was charged with malicious punishment of a child and third-degree assault. That case remains open.
Investigation also revealed that the victim and his twin sister were "placed on a health and welfare hold and resided in a foster care placement until February 18, 2021" — a little over eight weeks later — at which time they were returned to Cunigan's care.
Cunigan's other child, a 10-year-old boy referred to in charging documents as "Witness A," was at the scene the night of the victim's death. He later told investigators that his mother "used to abuse the victim" by "choking him, hitting him, and punching him" when he cried.
He also said that the defendant did not abuse the victim's twin sister "because she was Defendant’s favorite."
Cunigan is not currently in custody, the charges day.