September 8, 2009
Mother jailed for killing baby with antidepressants
A mother was jailed for six years today for killing her 20-month-old son by doping him to make him sleep.
Laura-Jane Vestuto, 28, crushed anti-depressant pills prescribed to her and fed them to toddler Renzo.
She had been giving the medication to Renzo for weeks before he developed breathing problems and died after being taken to hospital in September 2007.
Tests showed the drug had built up in his body and he had ten times the safe adult dose in his system, the Old Bailey heard.
Traces of Amitriptyline were found on baby medicine feeders but police believe he may have also been given the drug in his juice or milk.
Judge Peter Thornton told Vestuto she had given Renzo sedatives to make life easier for herself.
He said: “Instead of bearing the everyday responsibility of being a parent, caring and loving for your son, you embarked on a deliberate course of administering adult drugs, knowing that was wrong and risky.
“You gave him drugs for purely selfish, self-centred reasons, thinking only of yourself.”
The judge said Vestuto had been prescribed the drug seven times in the months leading up to the boy’s death, but was not taking it herself when Renzo died.
Traces of other drugs, including painkillers, were also found in his system.
Judge Thornton added: “You repeatedly administered these drugs, calmly and deliberately, knowing it was wrong and not the way to care for children.”
He said Vestuto had shown little emotion when her son died after being taken to hospital.
She had compounded the suffering of her mother and former husband by denying given Renzo the medication – and trying to throw the blame on them.
Sarah Whitehouse, prosecuting, said Vestuto had been prescribed the drug for backache and to make her sleep.
She told a neighbour that Renzo had been given medicine by her GP to make him sleep while he was teething – but the doctor said he was never consulted about teething problems.
Miss Whitehouse said it was not possible to say how long Vestuto had been giving the drug to the boy.
Isabella Forshall, defending, said Vestuto had not intended to harm the boy.
Miss Forshall said: “She meant it to help Renzo. There were a number of small doses which suddenly overwhelmed poor Renzo.
“All she wanted to be was a mum and housewife. Renzo was well-nourished and looked after.
“Like any parent, she was distressed when he was teething and miserable, and that is why she took the step she did – a desperately reckless one.”
Vestuto, of Clapton, east London, pleaded guilty in July to causing or allowing Renzo’s death.
An alternative charge of manslaughter was left to lie on file after she pleaded not guilty.