Investigators say that a South Hall teenager admitted to smothering her 9-day-old daughter “until she stopped breathing.”
Haley Brook Clark, 17, made an appearance Friday morning in Hall County Magistrate Court for her preliminary hearing, facing murder charges for the death of her newborn daughter, Olivia Clark.
According to Hall County Sheriff’s Office investigator Jason Egerton, who took the witness stand Friday morning, Clark admitted to him, as well as other family members, that she suffocated Olivia while feeding her July 18.
According to Egerton, during the feeding, Olivia was spitting up “a large amount” of milk and began crying. Clark, he said, then covered the child’s mouth and nose with her hand “until (Olivia) stopped breathing.”
He said Clark then found her younger brother, who was the only other person in the house at the time, and he called their mother. Clark’s brother dialed 911 per their mother’s orders.
Egerton said the medical examiner confirmed the account, determining the cause of death to be suffocation.
But the defense team pointed out that report was given to investigators Thursday, more than a month after autopsy was performed and three weeks after the arrest was made.
Prior to that report, Egerton said, the cause of death, determined by the medical examiner’s office, was “still pending.”
“It’s kind of early on,” said Brad Morris, the public defender representing Clark. “Oftentimes there’s a rush to judgment and a lot of times things are not what they seem to be.”
Clark was arrested Aug. 6 after investigatorsreinterviewed her because they had questions about her original statement.
“It appeared to me there were specific omissions in the story,” said Egerton, adding that he did not see Clark “getting emotional at all” while interviewing her at the hospital shortly after Olivia was pronounced dead.
Clark, during that second interview, admitted she suffocated her daughter, according to Egerton. Not long after, he said, Clark admitted the same to her father and her mother.
Egerton also said when Clark was alone in the interview room, she said aloud: “I’m sorry that I killed you.”
According to investigators, the night before Olivia’s death, Clark attended a party without her father’s knowledge. She came home in the early morning hours intoxicated, Egerton said, and got into an argument with her father about lying to him about where she was.
The next day, investigators said, prior to her daughter’s death, Clark left the child alone on the couch for about an hour while she visited a 25-year-old male acquaintance to talk about happenings at the previous night’s party.
Egerton said Clark’s father told him she was getting overwhelmed with the responsibility of having a child.
But, the defense said, more information about the events surrounding July 18 are likely to surface as the case progresses.
“Many times there’s a completely different slant on information when things go through the court processes and I think (Clark’s) might be one of those,” said Morris. “I think there’s going to be a lot more to it than has come up recently.”
“We’re in the process of finding out more information about it,” Morris continued. “But the bottom of it is: It’s 17-year-old girl and there’s a tragedy here for lots of people involved.”
The case will move to state superior court, but as of press time, no date has been set.